MLB Opening Day starters: Justin Verlander, Jack Flaherty and other aces who will pitch in openers


LHP Madison Bumgarner. As expected, the prized offseason pickup will be the Opening Day starter. The D-Backs made it official on July 18. Bumgarner is 2-1 with a 2.70 ERA in five career Opening Day starts. He famously hit two home runs in Arizona on Opening Day 2017. Bumgarner will be the team’s third different Opening Day starter in the last three seasons, joining Zack Greinke in 2019 and Patrick Corbin in 2018. Greinke is the last D-Backs pitcher to start consecutive season openers (2016-17). The Diamondbacks will open the 2020 season in San Diego on July 24. RHP Mike Soroka. A second-place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting (and a sixth-place finish in the Cy Young voting) in 2019 equals an Opening Day start in 2020. The Braves named Soroka their Opening Day starter on July 14. At 22 years and 355 days, he will be the youngest Opening Day starter in Braves history. Julio Teheran had started the team’s previous six season openers, a franchise record tied with Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (1957-62). The last pitcher other than Teheran to start Opening Day for the Braves was Tim Hudson in 2013. Soroka went 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019. The Braves will begin the new season on the road against the Mets on July 24. LHP John Means. Manager Brandon Hyde told reporters, including MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, on July 10 that Means will be the team’s Opening Day starter. The southpaw threw 155 innings with a 3.60 ERA last season and was the AL Rookie of the Year runner-up. Means will be Baltimore’s fifth different Opening Day starter in the past five years, joining Andrew Cashner (2019), Dylan Bundy (2018), Kevin Gausman (2017), and Chris Tillman. Tillman is the last pitcher to start consecutive Opening Days for the O’s (2014-16). Baltimore will open the season in Boston on July 24. RHP Nathan Eovaldi. Chris Sale is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and Eduardo Rodriguez was late reporting to summer camp after testing positive for COVID-19, so Eovaldi will get the Opening Day assignment, the team announced July 18, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. It will be Eovaldi’s first career Opening Day start. He had a 5.99 ERA in 67 2/3 innings around injuries last season. Sale had started the club’s last two season openers. The Red Sox will begin the 2020 season at home against the Orioles on July 24. RHP Kyle Hendricks. For the first time since their World Series championship season in 2016, it will not be Jon Lester on the mound on Opening Day for the Cubs. On July 17, new manager David Ross announced Hendricks will start the season opener, reports The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney. Hendricks went 11-10 with a 3.46 ERA last season. Lester had started the last three Opening Days for the Cubbies. Jake Arrieta in 2016 was the last Cubs pitcher to start the opener prior to Lester. Chicago opens the new season at home against the Brewers on July 24. TBA. LHP Dallas Keuchel is the grizzled veteran with Opening Day start experience but RHP Lucas Giolito is the staff ace.  RHP Sonny Gray. A breakout 2019 season has been rewarded with a 2020 Opening Day start. Reds manager David Bell named Gray the team’s Opening Day starter on July 8, according to David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News. Gray is 1-0 with 14 scoreless innings in two career Opening Day starts, both with the A’s (2014-15). He will be Cincinnati’s sixth different Opening Day starter in the past six years, joining Luis Castillo (2019), Homer Bailey (2018), Scott Feldman (2017), Raisel Iglesias (2016), and Johnny Cueto (2015). Cueto is the last Reds pitcher to start consecutive Opening Days (2012-15). The Reds will open the season July 24 at home against the Tigers. RHP Shane Bieber. Bieber was named the team’s Opening Day starter back in spring training and he will still get the ball when the shortened season begins later this month, reports Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes. Bieber broke out with a 3.28 ERA and 259 strikeouts last season. That earned him a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young voting. He’s the first pitcher other than Corey Kluber to start the season opener for Cleveland since Justin Masterson (2012-13). Bieber and his teammates will host the Royals on Opening Day on July 24. TBA. Either RHP Jon Gray or RHP German Marquez is likely to get the nod. TBA. LHP Matthew Boyd is the presumed Opening Day starter in Detroit. RHP Justin Verlander. As expected. On July 15 new manager Dusty Baker told reporters, including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, that Verlander will start the season opener. This will be Verlander’s third Opening Day start with Houston and the 12th of his career. That is the most among active pitchers and tied for the eighth most in history with Hall of Famers Grover Cleveland Alexander and Bert Blyleven. Verlander is 4-1 with a 3.74 ERA in his 11 previous Opening Day starts. The Astros will host the Mariners on Opening Day on July 24th. LHP Danny Duffy. The Royals will give the Opening Day start to Duffy, new manager Mike Matheny told reporters, including Fox 4 KC’s Harold Kuntz, on July 14. Brad Keller, last year’s Opening Day starter, is out indefinitely after testing positive for COVID-19. This will be Duffy’s third Opening Day start. He allowed one run in six innings on Opening Day 2017 and was hammered for five runs in four innings on Opening Day 2018. Duffy is the first Royals pitcher to start three Opening Days in a four-year span since Gil Meche started three straight from 2007-09. The Royals open the season in Cleveland on July 24. LHP Andrew Heaney. New manager Joe Maddon told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, on July 5 that Heaney will be the club’s Opening Day starter. This will be the southpaw’s first career Opening Day start — he was on track to start Opening Day last year before suffering an elbow injury in spring training — and he will be Anaheim’s fourth different Opening Day starter in the past four seasons. The Angels started Trevor Cahill on Opening Day in 2019, Garrett Richards in 2018, and Ricky Nolasco in 2017. The last Angels pitcher to start consecutive Opening Days was Jered Weaver (2010-15). The Halos begin the season July 24 in Oakland. LHP Clayton Kershaw. As expected, Kershaw will get the ball for his ninth career Opening Day start. Manager Dave Roberts made the announcement on July 7, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. Kershaw’s streak of eight consecutive Opening Day starts was snapped last season when he opened the year on the injured list with a shoulder issue. Hyun-Jin Ryu got the nod instead. Kershaw is 5-1 with a 1.05 ERA in eight career Opening Day starts. The Dodgers will open the season July 23 at home against the Giants. RHP Sandy Alcantara. Manager Don Mattingly named Alcantara, who posting a 3.88 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 197 1/3 innings as a rookie (and an All-Star) in 2019, the Opening Day starter on July 14, reports David Furones of the Sun Sentinel. It is the first Opening Day start for Alcantara. Jose Urena started the past two openers for Miami. The Marlins will open the 2020 season in Philadelphia on July 24. RHP Brandon Woodruff. On July 17, manager Craig Counsell announced Woodruff will be the team’s Opening Day starter, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It will be Woodruff’s first Opening Day start. He had a 3.62 ERA with 143 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings during his All-Star 2019 season, and he started the NL Wild Card Game as well. Woodruff is the Brewers’ seventh different Opening Day starter in the last seven years, joining Jhoulys Chacin (2019), Chase Anderson (2018), Junior Guerra (2017), Wily Peralta (2016), Kyle Lohse (2015), and Yovani Gallardo (2014). Gallardo, who started five straight season openers from 2010-24, is the last Brewers hurler to start consecutive Opening Days. Milwaukee will begin the 2020 on the road against the Cubs on July 24. RHP Jose Berrios. Berrios was named the Twins‘ Opening Day starter in March and nothing will change after the shutdown. Manager Rocco Baldelli confirmed on July 17 that Berrios will start the season opener, reports The Athletic’s Dan Hayes. This will be his second straight Opening Day start. Berrios struck out 10 in 7 2/3 shutout innings in Game 1 last year. The Twins will begin the season on the road against the White Sox on July 24. TBA. Two-time defending NL Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom is the obvious pick, though he’s dealing with a back issue, and the team is taking it day-by-day. RHP Gerrit Cole. No surprise here. The Yankees did not give Cole a pitching record $324 million contract to not start him on Opening Day. Manager Aaron Boone confirmed the team’s Opening Day plans during a conference call with reporters on July 13. This will be Cole’s second career Opening Day start — he allowed five runs in five innings in the season opener with the Pirates in 2017 — and he will be the club’s third different Opening Day starter in the past three years, joining Masahiro Tanaka (2019) and Luis Severino (2018). Tanaka is the last Yankee to start consecutive Opening Days (2015-17). The Yankees open the 2020 regular season in Washington on July 23. RHP Frankie Montas. Montas, not Sean Manaea or Mike Fiers, will start Opening Day, the Athletics told reporters, including Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle, on July 18. It will be his first Opening Day start. Montas went 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA around an 80-game performance-enhancing drug suspension last season. He will be Oakland’s third different Opening Day starter in the last three years, joining Fiers (2019) and Kendall Graveman (2018). Graveman is the last A’s pitcher to start consecutive season openers (2017-18). The Athletics will begin the season at home against the Angels on July 24. TBA. RHP Aaron Nola had a delayed start to summer camp after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, and RHP Zack Wheeler has hinted at possibly opting out of the season. If neither is available, RHP Jake Arrieta would be next in line to start Opening Day. RHP Joe Musgrove. New manager Derek Shelton announced Musgrove as the club’s Opening Day starter on July 17, reports Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Musgrove is a trendy breakout pick and he’ll make his first career Opening Day start after throwing 170 1/3 innings with a 4.44 ERA last season. He became the favorite to start the season opener once Chris Archer needed surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. Musgrove will be Pittsburgh’s fifth different Opening Day starter in the last five years, joining Jameson Taillon (2019), Ivan Nova (2018) Gerrit Cole (2017), and Francisco Liriano (2016). Liriano started three straight season openers from 2014-16. The Pirates will begin the season in St. Louis on July 24. RHP Jack Flaherty. Flaherty was named the team’s Opening Day starter back in spring training and on July 14 he told reporters, including Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that remains the plan. It will be his first Opening Day start. Flaherty went 11-8 with a 2.75 ERA last season, including 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA in the second half, and finished fourth in the Cy Young voting. The Cardinals have used three different Opening Day starters the last three seasons: Flaherty (2020), Miles Mikolas (2019), and Carlos Martinez (2018). St. Louis will host the Pirates when the team’s season begins July 24. TBA. RHP Chris Paddack is the obvious choice. RHP Johnny Cueto. The Giants named Cueto the team’s Opening Day starter back in spring training and he will still get the assignment when the season begins later this month, new manager Gape Kapler told The Athletic’s Alex Pavlovic on July 14. Cueto returned from Tommy John surgery last September and is 1-1 with a 0.64 ERA in four previous career Opening Day starts, all with the Reds. He will be San Francisco’s third different Opening Day starter in the past three years, joining Madison Bumgarner (2019) and Ty Blach (2018). Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain combined to start every Opening Day for the Giants from 2009-17. The Giants begin the 2020 regular season at Dodger Stadium on July 23. LHP Marco Gonzales. Manager Scott Servais confirmed Gonzales will make his second straight Opening Day start on July 8, according to The Athletic’s Corey Brock. Gonzales allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings in last year’s Opening Day start. Felix Hernandez started Seattle’s season opener every year from 2009-18. Gonzales will be the first Mariners pitcher other than Hernandez to start consecutive Opening Days since Jamie Moyer started three straight from 2004-06. The Mariners will begin the season July 24 in Houston. RHP Charlie Morton. Morton will get the ball on Opening Day “in all likelihood,” manager Kevin Cash told reporters, including MLB.com’s Juan Toribio, on July 18. It would be the 36-year-old’s first career Opening Day start. Morton went 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA and 240 strikeouts in a career high 194 2/3 innings last season, earning him a third-place finish in the Cy Young voting. Should Morton not start the opener for some reason, 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell is the most obvious alternative. Snell started Opening Day last year. Chris Archer started Game 1 the previous four years for Tampa. The Rays begin the 2020 season at home against the Blue Jays on July 24. RHP Lance Lynn. The Rangers wasted no time naming Lynn their Opening Day starter. Manager Chris Woodward made the announcement on June 25, a week before the club started Summer Camp, according to MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan. Texas had two other quality Opening Day starter candidates in Mike Minor and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. This will be Lynn’s first Opening Day assignment and he will be the fourth different Opening Day starter in four years for the Rangers, joining Minor (2019), Cole Hamels (2018), and Yu Darvish (2017). The Rangers have not had a pitcher make consecutive Opening Day starts since Kevin Millwood (2006-09), if you can believe that. Texas will open the 2020 season at home at brand new Globe Life Field on July 24. They will host the Rockies. TBA. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu is the likely Opening Day starter. RHP Max Scherzer. It’ll be the three-time Cy Young award winner once again. Scherzer will make his third straight Opening Day start and fifth in six years with the Nationals this season, reports MLB.com’s Jessica Camerato. World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg, who has four career Opening Day starts under his belt, was the other obvious candidate. Scherzer is 1-2 with a 1.27 ERA in his four prior Opening Day starts. Only Steve Rogers (nine) and Dennis Martinez (six) have made more career Opening Day starts for the Expos/Nationals franchise than Scherzer. Washington will begin its World Series title defense at home against the Yankees on July 23.





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