CLEVELAND — Opening Day at Progressive Field brought about a reunion of former Indians infielders.
Jays utility infielder Omar Vizquel, who awed Tribe fans for 11 years with his dazzling defense at shortstop, began his 24th — and perhaps final — season in the Major Leagues on Thursday.
Carlos Baerga, who manned second base for Cleveland from 1990-96 and in 1999, has been representing the club as an alumni ambassador. He caught the ceremonial first pitch.
“It’s something special,” Baerga said. “I haven’t been here on Opening Day since I played here. To be here today is something really good for me.”
Baerga and Vizquel shared a few laughs and reminisced about their time together during the Tribe’s glory days of the ’90s.
Baerga can’t believe the 11-time Gold Glove winner is still chugging along at the ripe age of 44. Vizquel is one-and-a-half years older than Baerga.
“He’s amazing. He’s a great player and he stays in great shape,” Baerga said. “I said, ‘Man, what’s going on? You’re making me look bad.'”
The Indians have welcomed several players from that era back to the organization. Sandy Alomar Jr. is the team’s bench coach. Kenny Lofton assisted with outfielders and baserunning as a guest instructor during Spring Training. Even Albert Belle, who maintained a hot-and-cold relationship with the club and its fans, made an appearance in Goodyear, Ariz.
“It’s awesome,” Baerga said. “The Cleveland Indians have started doing what the New York Yankees used to do, bringing in the old guys to be with the young players. I’m really proud to do it.”
Vizquel was busy securing a spot on Toronto’s Opening Day roster, so he couldn’t join his former teammates in Spring Training. But seeing his old pals in their new roles has him hopeful for a spot in Cleveland once he finally opts to hang up his cleats.
“I’d like to [be in Cleveland],” Vizquel said. “The Indians have a special place in my heart.”
Theo Epstein is well aware he’s been the focus this offseason. On Opening Day, he said, it should shift to the Cubs.
“That’s nice and a complement but I’m realistic to know if that’s the case, it’s because I’m a symbol,” said Epstein, the Cubs president of baseball operations, who took over the team last October. “It’s not me. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of people — the players first and foremost — who working extremely hard trying to push the organization forward.”
He included the Cubs ownership, manager Dale Sveum and the rest of the baseball operations staff.
“I’m one small person in a very big machine,” Epstein said. “Not only have I not done anything yet but I’m a small part of it.”
Opening Day is the perfect start.
“It’s a special day, one of the best days of the year and the feeling of renewal is amplified every time you’re with a new team,” Epstein said.
“Opening Day is the one day of the year that doesn’t feel like any other days,” Epstein said. “I really cherish the second day of the year because that’s when the baseball rhythms kick in, you see the people at the park who will be with you the whole year and you get into your routine. That’s when it feels like baseball. Opening Day feels like a holiday. That second day of the year is when it all kicks in.”
There are some who feel Epstein is powerful enough to have made the ivy on the outfield walls bloom in time for the season opener between the Cubs and Nationals. Actually, it’s because of the early summer-like weather in Chicago in March.
“I was telling someone last night, I hope that’s a good omen,” Epstein said of the ivy. “We’ll take it as a sign of good things to come.”
The red, white and blue bunting may be on the ballpark and optimism is high but there’s still work to do.
“Maybe this completes the transition phase for me personally coming to new surroundings,” said Epstein, who was with the Red Sox from November 2002 until he joined the Cubs. “But it’s just another day. Nothing stops on Opening Day as far as we’re concerned. We need to do something every day to better the organization.
“The best time for reflection is the morning after sipping champagne when you win a World Series,” he said. “Until then, you keep plodding forward and try not to look back too much.”
– Carrie Muskat
What went into the decision to keep Ellsbury in the leadoff spot? “Jacoby? Obviously we talk about the lineup as a group. It seems like in this grouping he looks really good being there and I also thought it would be apropos for you guys to write about the number one and number two in the MVP voting facing each other on a first pitch here in Detroit this year. And he liked it too. Talking to him, he kind of relished the idea.”
How can Ellsbury have another year like last year? “By taking it one pitch at a time. Obviously today, at the end of today, he’s not going to have the stats that he had at the end of last year. And, you know, the trap everyone always falls into is answering all those questions. How are you going to do better this year than you did last year? You start thinking that you have to hit a home run every time and a triple the next time and two doubles and steal bases, drive in the runs, all at once, and that’s not how it happens.” Read more
It’s Opening Day, and here’s your Phillies lineup:
- Shane Victorino, CF
- Placido Polanco, 3B
- Jimmy Rollins, SS
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Ty Wigginton, 1B
- John Mayberry Jr., LF
- Carlos Ruiz, C
- Freddy Galvis, 2B
- Roy Halladay, P
Happy Opening Day. Here are Thursday’s Major League Baseball games, including the traditional opener in Cincinnati:
|Away||Home||Time (ET)||Away Probable||Home Probable||MLB.TV||Tickets|
MLB.com Cardinals beat reporter Jen Langosch, who dominated the field in the MLB.com Blogs Latest Leaders rankings for March that we will be posting in the next day, wrote this in her post on Opening Night in Miami:
- There was plenty of oohing and ahhing over the unique new park during Tuesday’s workout. Not today. For those in red, this is game No. 1 of 162. That’s it. Asked if there would be a different feel to the night given all the pregame ceremonies and build up in Miami, starter Kyle Lohse might have put it best: “It’s another game. Pitching in the World Series last year, that’s different.”
There was plenty of evidence of that, as Lohse shut down the Marlins and spoiled their opener, carrying a no-hitter into the seventh inning and settling for an impressive 4-1 decision. The defending world champs picked up where they left off, with David Freese driving in the decisive runs on a two-run single [WATCH video] in the first and collecting three hits.
Pretty fantastical opening ceremonies at new Marlins Park, which is getting rave reviews so far, especially if you like bright green. Not so sure about Jose Feliciano’s rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” … at least we think that was the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Really didn’t sound anything like it. There will be many more National Anthems to come in Miami and they’ll go up from there. No doubt our fellow MLB.com Blogs voice Ozzie Guillen will expect the host’s performance to do the same.
Because they drew the assignment of facing the Marlins on the night Miami christened its new ballpark, the defending World Champion Cardinals managed not to dominate the storylines on Opening Day. Still, there are storylines aplenty as St. Louis attempts to become just the third team since 1979 to repeat as World Champs.
Mike Matheny makes his managerial debut on Wednesday as the new-look Cardinals play on without Tony La Russa, Albert Pujols and Dave Duncan. The Cardinals will also go down as the first team to face the Marlins in the team’s new stadium, and the novelty of the ballpark caught the attention of everyone upon first glance.
“It’s bright. It’s unique, too,” Matheny said. “I think that’s something that you look at with the new parks. It seems like you go through phases where everything kind of looks the same. But they’ve got their own unique flavor to this one.”
Said Jon Jay, a Miami native: “We always hoped for something like this. Now the Miami community will have a real baseball stadium. You’ll get that feeling of a baseball park that we get going across the country. I think it’s nice for the community and the kids and everyone that is a part of Miami.”
Though there was plenty of oohing and ahhing over the unique new park during Tuesday’s workout, that wasn’t so much the case today. For those in red, this is game No. 1 of 162. That’s it. Asked if there would be a different feel to the night given all the pregame ceremonies and build up in Miami, starter Kyle Lohse might have put it best: “It’s another game. Pitching in the World Series last year, that’s different.”
The Cardinals’ Opening Day roster includes six players who have never been on a Major League Opening Day roster before. Those include Tony Cruz, Erik Komatsu, Lance Lynn, Matt Carpenter, Fernando Salas and Shane Robinson. Komatsu is the only one of the bunch who did not make an appearance with the Cardinals at some point last year.
“You always want to be a part of Opening Day roster,” said Lynn, who will make his season debut in Milwaukee on Sunday. “I happen to have a World Series under my belt before I had one of these, which is kind of weird. But it’s very exciting for this first one.”
Game 2 of the Opening Series began with a traditional Japanese samurai dance performance/laser light show and ended with Justin Smoak grounding out to second base. The Opening Series ends with a 1-1 split between the A’s and Mariners, meaning the clubs will return to the US with the AL West a hotly contested race:
Hanshin Tigers: 2-0, 1.000
Oakland Athletics: 2-2, .500
Yomiuri Giants: 1-1, .500
Seattle Mariners: 1-3, .250
Texas Rangers: 0-0, –
Los Angeles Angels: 0-0, –
For what it’s worth, I like Hanshin to make the postseason — especially with a second Wild Card now in place. Read more