Top stars in different dugouts, a couple of fond farewells. Talented newcomers, a rule tweak that could spell trouble.
All part of the lineup this season in Major League Baseball heading into opening day. A quick look at what to watch starting Sunday:
Ace Zack Greinke pulled the biggest winter surprise, leaving the Dodgers to sign with Arizona. The Diamondbacks then quickly doubled down on a new rotation, trading for All-Star Shelby Miller. Hoping to end a World Series drought that dates to 1908, the Cubs loaded up with Jason Heyward, John Lackey and Ben Zobrist. Boston boosted its staff with David Price and Craig Kimbrel, San Francisco did the same with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Detroit tried to keep open its postseason window by adding Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton; the White Sox acquired Todd Frazier, Jimmy Rollins and Brett Lawrie; and slick-fielding Andrelton Simmons moved to the Angels. Daniel Murphy parlayed his playoff success into a deal with Washington. Ken Giles also was on the go, swapped from the Phillies to Houston — he might not be a huge name yet, but the hard-throwing reliever could really ascend with the Astros.
David Ortiz begins his goodbye tour at 40, with 503 home runs and a legacy of leadership in Boston. A gift Big Papi wants? A standing ovation in his last game at Yankee Stadium. Vin Scully has been a gift to every fan who’s ever heard him call a game. At 88, he’s starting his 67th and final year as a Dodgers announcer. His first game was April 18, 1950 — Jackie Robinson scored Brooklyn’s only run that day. This also will be the last look for Turner Field, which opened as Centennial Olympic Stadium for the 1996 Atlanta Games and became the Braves’ home the following year. Next season, they’ll play in a new suburban park.
MR. RUNNER’S NEIGHBORHOOD
For more than a century, middle infielders trying to turn double plays often cheated, coming off second base a shade early to escape sliding runners and hurry their throws. In recent years, umpires called those misses more frequently. This season, the so-called “neighborhood play” is totally out — as in, it can be subject to a video review. With runners now required to slide straight into the base, a rule change that resulted from Chase Utley breaking Ruben Tejada’s leg in the playoffs, and fielders under pressure to hold the bag, it could set up a dangerous collision course.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager and Mets lefty Steven Matz rate at the top of the rookie crop. They’ve already met, facing each other last October in the NL playoffs. It could be a big year for new shortstops — Trevor Story of Colorado, Trea Turner of Washington, Orlando Arcia of Milwaukee and J.P. Crawford of Philadelphia could make noise this season. And this might be the year Minnesota outfielder Byron Buxton breaks loose.
Dusty Baker is back in the dugout, hoping the Nationals can become the fourth team he takes to the playoffs. Out of the majors for two years, he’s returned with that familiar toothpick in place. Don Mattingly moved from leading Los Angeles to managing Miami, joined by new hitting coach Barry Bonds. Three skippers get their first chance: Dave Roberts with the Dodgers, Scott Servais in Seattle and Andy Green in San Diego.
Byung Ho Park totaled 105 home runs and 270 RBIs over the last two seasons in Korea, and now the 29-year-old slugger takes aim at Target Field with the Twins. Two other international imports could play key roles this year — at 27, Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda has already enjoyed eight seasons of success in Japan; nicknamed “The Final Boss” in the Far East, Seung Hwan Oh posted 357 career saves in Korea and Japan before joining the Cardinals.
New Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes won’t be playing on opening day, penalized under MLB’s domestic violence policy. Chapman agreed to accept a 30-game suspension after an altercation with his girlfriend in the offseason. Reyes is on indefinite paid suspension, pending a trial scheduled to begin Monday following an alleged incident involving his wife.