LEADING OFF: Darvish debut with Cubs, bullpen bunch for Rays
A look at what’s happening all around the majors today:
Yu Darvish makes his first start for the Chicago Cubs when he pitches at Miami. The last time threw in a game that counted, it didn’t go well — he got tagged by Houston in a Game 7 loss in the World Series at Dodger Stadium, prompting speculation Darvish was tipping his pitches. The Japanese star and former Texas ace became a free agent and reached a $126 million, six-year contract with the Cubs just days before spring training began.
The Tampa Bay Rays are set to debut their so-called “bullpen day.” It’s part of a non-traditional plan to use four-man rotation this season, with a combination of multiple-inning relievers taking the place of a starter every fifth day.
When probable pitchers for Tampa Bay’s four-game, season-opening series against Boston were released, the Rays listed “TBD” for Game 3. That was even before the projected starter for Sunday’s finale, Nathan Eovaldi, was put on the disabled list with an elbow problem that required arthroscopic surgery.
Rays manager Kevin Cash planned to wait until after Friday night’s game to announce his bullpen-day scenario, wanting to see who was available.
Arizona ace Zack Greinke makes his season debut when he faces Colorado at home. He was slowed by a groin strain in spring training, but closed out his Cactus League action by pitching six shutout innings vs. Cleveland this week. The 34-year-old Greinke is beginning his 15th season in the majors. He was 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA last year, but then got hit hard by the Rockies in the NL wild-card game the Diamondbacks eventually won 11-8.
WHERE’D THEY GO?
The Reds flipped the bullpen configuration at Great American Ball Park for this season, moving their relievers from left-center field to right. When Cincinnati manager Bryan Price made a pitching change in the eighth inning of Friday’s opener, he accidentally pointed to the Washington bullpen that’s now in left-center.
Ron Gardenhire hadn’t managed since 2014, when his long run with the Twins ended. In his first game as Detroit’s skipper, he didn’t make it to the end, either. Gardenhire was ejected when a replay reversal in the 10th inning took away the apparent winning run, and Pittsburgh prevailed 13-10 in the 13th. Gardenhire will try again to go the distance when the Tigers take on the Pirates at Comerica Park.