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30 Teams, 30 Observations from MLB Opening Weekend

Shotgun Spratling |
April 4, 2011 | 3:33 a.m. PDT

Associate Sports Editor

Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton likes to make the late innings more interesting. (SD Dirk, Creative Commons)
Dodgers' closer Jonathan Broxton likes to make the late innings more interesting. (SD Dirk, Creative Commons)
Arizona Diamondbacks - Guess which Diamondback is tied for the league lead in stolen bases after opening weekend? Ding...ding...ding...Willie Bloomquist is correct. Playing shortstop and leading off, Bloomquist swiped three bases in Arizona's first two games against Colorado.

Atlanta Braves - On what other team does a team's best hitter bat sixth? Then why is Jason Heyward batting there? Apparently, studies show that each slot in the lineup is worth about 18 plate appearances. That means Heyward is missing out on up to 72 plate appearances by batting sixth (rather than somewhere from second to fifth). Someone wake Fredi Gonzalez up. 

Baltimore Orioles - It's always tough to take a starter who is throwing a no-hitter out, but the Orioles made the right decision Saturday when they removed Chris Tillman after six innings and 101 pitches. Tampa Bay immediately got a hit, but it was one of only 12 Baltimore allowed in the entire series.

Boston Red Sox - Gasp. 0-3? More troubling than the Rangers' three-game sweep of Boston was the outing of John Lackey. He gave up nine runs on 10 hits, including a grand slam to last season's teammate Adrian Beltre, in 3 2/3 innings. This is supposed to be the year Lackey bounces back after he struggled adjusting to the AL East last season.

Chicago Cubs - The Cubs ended up losing the series to the Pirates when Pittsburgh's only legit power threat, Pedro Alvarez, nubbed a ball into no-man's land behind the pitcher's mound in the ninth inning Sunday. Despite the ball going no more than 75 feet, two runners found their way to the plate for the tying and go-ahead runs. These are the ways the Cubs find to lose.

Chicago White Sox - Carlos Quentin is tied for the early RBI lead with seven and Gordon Beckham swung the bat extremely well. The Chi Sox could have one of the most underrated lineups in baseball, especially if Adam Dunn hits .260 again and Paul Konerko's regression isn't too drastic.

Cincinnati Reds - Walk-off homer on Opening Day? Check -- Ramon Hernandez's opposite field bomb. Stellar performance from top pitching prospect? Check -- Seven innings, one run performance from Travis Wood. Great outing from Bronson Arroyo? Check. Wait a minute. Isn't he supposed to be out with mono? Well, Arroyo does have mono, but he still pitched great Sunday as the Red Stockings swept division rival Milwaukee.

Cleveland Indians - For the first time in 75 years, Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller is no longer with the organization after his passing in December. While this year's squad probably won't give "Rapid Robert" many things to smile at from above, they did produce the highlight of opening weekend when Carlos Santana made a diving catch on a bunt attempt to start a triple play in Sunday's 7-1 victory.

Colorado Rockies - Jorge de la Rosa was great in his start Saturday before having to leave with a blister on his pitching hand. The same couldn't be said for last year's ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who hasn't been the same pitcher since the All-Star break. In his Opening Day start, Jimenez only struck out one batter after getting just nine Ks in 19.1 spring training innings.

Detroit Tigers - Max Scherzer gave up nine hits and six runs in five innings Sunday, but the Tigers managed to salvage one game in the opening set against the New York Yankees thanks in part to Miguel Cabrera. Even though there are still questions about his sobriety stemming from his spring training DUI, Cabrera continues to produce as one of the best hitters in baseball.

Florida Marlins - As talented as Hanley Ramirez, he once again showed his inability to remain focused and interested (maybe he hung out with Manny while he was in Boston's farm system). While turning a fairly routine double play ball, Ramirez sent the ball flying into the dugout. Maybe if he gets out of Florida, he'll feel more appreciated and actually try.

Houston Astros - Carlos Lee had Cliff Lee's number in Saturday's loss to Philadelphia, hitting a homer and a double off this offseason's most sought-after pitcher. Too bad he's the only one who had a semblance of success in the series sweep by the Phillies.

Kansas City Royals - Post-Grienke life in Kansas City has gone well so far. The Royals are 3-1 following Matt Traenor's walk-off home run Sunday. Picking up the win in relief was 21-year-old diminutive reliever Tim Collins, who pitched three scoreless innings while striking out five.

Los Angeles Dodgers - Dodger dogs = awesome. Dodger fans...no so much. Jonathan Broxton is also not so great, but he at least makes every ninth inning interesting. He lives to give up the meaningless solo home run with a two- or three-run lead.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - How long will the Angels be able to keep Scott Kazmir in their rotation? Once one of the premier power lefties in the game, he is a shell of his former self (and that's on a good day). He was terrible in spring training and couldn't get out of the second inning in his start Sunda. His ERA has risen in four consecutive years.

Milwaukee Brewers - The Brewers are many people's sleeper pick in the National League. However, they have Yuniesky Betancourt as their everyday shortstop. No team with Betancourt starting should be considered a legit contender. He showed why in the Reds' sweep of the Brew Crew. Betancourt went 0-for-11 and never even hit a ball hard.

Closer Joe Nathan was shaky in his first save opportunity since returning from elbow surgery. (Creative Commons)
Closer Joe Nathan was shaky in his first save opportunity since returning from elbow surgery. (Creative Commons)
Minnesota Twins - Joe Nathan picked up his first post-Tommy John save Sunday, but it was anything but pretty. He topped out at 91 mph rather than the mid-90s he threw before the injury and Toronto pounded the ball, just right at people. Since he is only a year removed from surgery, don't be surprised if he struggles in April and May.

New York Mets - With Johan Santana likely out until midseason, is there any chance the Mets can still be within striking distance of the Braves and Phillies? They started off positively, taking two of three from the Marlins on the road. However, an opening weekend rotating of R.A. Dickey, Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese isn't going to frighten anyone.

New York Yankees - Of the last 80 teams to make the playoffs, only three have started the season 0-3. So with the Rays and Red Sox both starting out winless, the Yankees are a shoe-in for the playoffs? If A.J. Burnett throws like he did Saturday, they may be. Sure he allowed three runs in five innings, but he was fighting a head cold and had six strikeouts to only one walk.

Oakland Athletics - People have been raving about the Athletics being a possible sleeper in the American League West because of how talented their young pitching staff is. But who is going to score runs for this team? They managed 11 runs against the Mariners but batted just .237.

Pittsburgh Pirates - For the fifth consecutive season, the Pirates have started with a winning record after three games. Maybe this year they can top 2009 and get past the 24th game before falling under .500 for the duration of the season. 

Philadelphia Phillies - It wasn't the first time Roy Oswalt had played against his former team, the Houston Astros. But it was the first time he had pitched against them, with his other appearance coming in the outfield during an extra-inning game last season. After being in the Astros' organization for 16 years, Oswalt showed no mercy as he allowed just two runs in six innings, helping the Phillies to a series sweep.

San Diego Padres - Cameron Maybin hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning Friday night. Could this be the year that he lives up to his potential? He reminds a lot of people of B.J. Upton. Both make the game look easy when they are playing well but can look clueless when they struggle. Which Maybin will Padres fans see more of this season?

San Francisco Giants - In an attempt to add some pop to their lineup, the Giants handed the first base job over to rookie Brandon Belt and moved Aubrey Huff to the outfield, but because Pat Burrell is already a terrible outfielder with limited mobility, Huff is having to play right field instead of the traditional left field spot managers normally stick a defense-strapped bat. Belt did hit a home run over the weekend, but Huff's defense has been atrocious -- so much so that his teammates taped a chalk line in the outfield during Sunday's pre-game where Huff had dove earlier in the series.

Seattle Mariners - Ichiro Suzuki surpassed Mariner great Edgar Martinez as the team's all-time hit leader Sunday when he knocked his 2,248 hit on a RBI-single. Ichiro also hosed Hideki Matsui at third base when he tried to tag on a fly ball hit by Kurt Suzuki -- three Japanese players involved on one play...and on Japanese Heritage Day no less.

St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals have no reason to panic. Matt Holliday will be back from his appendectomy in no time. It's not a serious "injury" unless it gets infected. Andres Torres returned from an appendectomy in 15 days last season and St. Louis is holding off on putting Holliday on the 15-day disabled list, with the hope that he will be able to return before then.

Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays managed only 12 hits in the series against Baltimore and are going to be without their slugging third baseman Evan Longoria for at least two weeks with a strained oblique. Tampa Bay needs its veteran free agent signees Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to lead by example.

Texas Rangers - Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler went off for the Rangers. The duo combined for six home runs in the series against Boston, each hitting a solo homer in each game. Cruz also became only the second right-handed hitter in the Ballpark at Arlington history to hit a long ball into the upper deck in right field. More importantly, No. 3 starter Matt Harrison was brilliant Sunday, throwing seven innings and allowing just one run.

Toronto Blue Jays - The Canadian faithful have to be excited after seeing the future on display on opening weekend. Top slugging prospect J.P. Arencibia had a two homer game while driving in five runs on Opening Day and top pitching prospect Kyle Drabek followed that with seven innings of one-hit gem pitching the next day.

Washington Nationals - The talk of "closer by committee" was confirmed when manager Jim Riggleman inserted frontrunner Drew Storen in the eighth inning Saturday and replaced him with Sean Burnett after Storen gave up a home run to the Braves' Alex Gonzalez. Burnett pitched the final 1 1/3 innings to get the save.


Follow Shotgun on Twitter (@BlueWorkhorse) or reach him by email.



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