After the Rangers and Astros provided a bit of a teaser in baseball's season opener on Sunday night, we got 12 games on Monday. Talk about overstimulation. We were spoiled by some pretty amazing performances, including Bryce Harper becoming the youngest player to homer twice on Opening Day and Clayton Kershaw becoming the first pitcher to throw a shutout and homer in a season opener since Bob Lemon in 1953.
While Stephen Strasburg's performance on Monday wasn't historic, it was interesting. He blanked the weak Marlins' lineup over seven shutout innings, but the Nationals pulled him after just 80 pitches. Sure, there's no need to push him early on, but it's sure to raise more questions about how he'll be handled this year.
After Strasburg was shut down at 159 1/3 innings last season, I don't think he's a lock to make it to 200 innings this year, especially since the Nationals have designs on making a long run in the playoffs. My guess is that he'll settle somewhere closer to the 180-inning range, which still represents a progression from last year, but will also allow him to be there when the club needs him the most. Of course, Strasburg is special enough that he still has the potential to be a top-tier starting pitcher in mixed leagues, even if the Nationals continue to take him out after seven innings.
While Strasburg's workload figures to be a topic of conversation again in 2013, below are some more headlines from around a busy Opening Day around the majors.
Marmol Gonna Marmol
The Cubs nearly traded Carlos Marmol to the Angels over the winter, but they reportedly backed out of the deal due to concerns over Dan Haren's medicals. Still, the Cubs appear determined to move the erratic reliever at some point. While the hope is that he'll pitch well enough early on to boost his trade value, his season is already off to a rough start.
Marmol was pulled from Monday's season opener against the Pirates after he retired just one of the four batters he faced. Nursing a 3-0 lead, Marmol struck out Garrett Jones swinging before he hit Andrew McCutchen with a pitch. McCutchen then stole second base and was brought home on an RBI single by Pedro Alvarez. Gaby Sanchez followed with a walk, which brought the hook from manager Dale Sveum. After James Russell got Neil Walker to fly out to right field, offseason acquisition Kyuji Fujikawa entered and retired Russell Martin with a lazy fly ball to center to notch the one-out save.
Sveum downplayed Marmol's poor performance after the game, saying that he simply "didn't have it today," but it's hard to remember the last time that he did. Even though his ERA was solid over the final four months of the season last year, he still averaged 7.3 BB/9. And the margin for error will be much smaller this year with Fujikawa looming as a quality alternative. The Cubs will continue to give Marmol chances for now, but he could be one of the first closers to lose their job this season. Feel free to speculate on Fujikawa if you have the roster space and need saves.
Down Goes Ludwick
The Reds were dealt a tough blow during Monday's season opener, as starting left fielder Ryan Ludwick was forced to exit due to a dislocated right shoulder. He suffered the injury during a head-first slide into third base. We'll know about the severity following an MRI on Tuesday, but it's safe to say that a stint on the disabled list is in his future.
Chris Heisey replaced Ludwick in the lineup and figures to play pretty regularly during his absence. If Ludwick needs to miss significant time, if wouldn't be surprising if Heisey finds himself in center field as opposed to left, as Shin-Soo Choo looked pretty shaky defensively in Monday's game. Either way, Heisey offers pop and some speed and should be on your radar in deeper mixed fantasy leagues.
Some have speculated whether top prospect Billy Hamilton could be an option to replace Ludwick on the active roster, but we're probably not close to seeing him yet. Aside from the obvious service time implications, he's better off getting more reps in center field in the minor leagues. But it might not be much longer.
Leyland Plays the Matchups
We got our first look at Jim Leyland's closer-by-committee in Monday's game against the Twins. The verdict? So far, so good.
Leyland did an excellent job playing the matchups. After right-hander Joaquin Benoit pitched a scoreless eighth inning, he was left in to retire Josh Willingham to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Leyland then brought in left-hander Phil Coke, who struck out Justin Morneau and got Ryan Doumit on a fly out to end it.
While this would seem to indicate that Coke is the early favorite for save chances, don't forget that right-handed batters have done a number on him during his career. In other words, Leyland could easily go another direction if the matchups dictate. Benoit and Octavio Dotel also figure to get save chances, so while this committee may lead to success for the Tigers, it could be pretty frustrating for fantasy owners. But by all means dig in if you're desperate.
National League Quick Hits: Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles Monday, but admitted that his right elbow still bothers him when he hits left-handed … Carl Crawford batted leadoff in his Dodgers' debut Monday vs. the Giants and went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored … Chase Utley's hot spring carried over to Opening Day, as he went 3-for-3 with a homer, triple and three RBI against the Braves … Jeff Samardzija allowed just two hits while striking out nine over eight shutout innings Monday against the Pirates … Freddie Freeman, Justin Upton and Dan Uggla all homered off Cole Hamels in the Braves' win over the Phillies on Monday … Chase Headley (thumb) fielded soft grounders Monday and hopes to ramp up his rehab after a follow-up X-ray next week … David Freese (back) is scheduled to play in extended spring training games on Friday and Saturday and could be activated for the Cardinals' home opener next Monday … A.J. Burnett notched 10 strikeouts in a loss to the Cubs on Monday … Shaun Marcum (neck) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday and could join the Mets' rotation Sunday … Cody Ross (calf) will begin a minor league rehab assignment Thursday with High-A Visalia and could be activated next Monday if all goes well … New Mets' starting center fielder Collin Cowgill slugged his first career grand slam in a blowout win over the Padres on Monday … Gerardo Parra went 4-for-5 with three doubles in Monday's win over the Cardinals … Darwin Barney was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday due to a deep laceration in his left knee …
American League Quick Hits: Felix Hernandez allowed just three hits over 7 2/3 shutout frames in Monday's win over the Athletics … CC Sabathia struggled on Opening Day, giving up four runs over five innings, but downplayed concerns over his velocity after the game … Chris Sale outdueled James Shields on Monday by tossing 7 2/3 shutout frames vs. the Royals … Brett Lawrie (oblique) resumed throwing Monday and could play in a minor league game by the weekend … David Ortiz (heels) hopes to begin playing in minor league rehab games early next week … Alex Rodriguez told reporters Monday that his recovery from left hip surgery is going well … Elvis Andrus' new contract extension reportedly allows him to opt out after the 2018 season … Mark Teixeira was given clearance Monday to remove the protective brace from his right wrist … Chris Iannetta had a solo homer and a go-ahead, two-run single in a 3-1 win over the Reds in 13 innings on Monday … Jackie Bradley Jr. drew three walks and scored twice in his major league debut Monday … John Danks (shoulder) is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game Thursday … Ryan Madson (elbow) hopes to resume his throwing program within the next couple of days …