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Leyland: Don’t try to predict weather impact

The conditions at Yankee Stadium are really cold today, with a first-pitch temperature of 42. It’s damp and it’s windy. Sounds like perfect conditions for two hard-throwing starting pitchers who can jam hitters inside, right?

Well, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be a low-scoring game, the way Tigers manager Jim Leyland looks at it.

“I found out a long time ago not to try to figure this thing out, because it just doesn’t work,” Leyland said. “Normally, you go into a game like today and you figure with the cold weather, maybe the pitchers have the advantage. You have two outstanding pitchers going. But I learned a long time ago, maybe an infielder gets a wet ball and throws one away, an outfielder slips with a couple runners on because of the wet grass or something. So I’ve never tried to figure it. It is what it is.”

Aussie Brad Thomas feels Opening Day chill

Those aren’t Opening Day jitters for Tigers reliever Brad Thomas. He’s just that cold.

Thomas likes to brag that he never has a winter. The Australian left-hander enjoys summers pitching in the United States, then returns home in time for the warm season there.

Opening Day weather like Thursday’s cold, rainy conditions in New York really get to him. Heck, even the sunny, mid-40s conditions for Wednesday’s workout got to him.

“This is cold for me,” Thomas said as he debated how many layers of clothing to put on under his jersey. “I’ve had summer all year round for 15 years.”

There are parts of Australia that get snowy conditions, he said, mainly around the mountainous areas. But he lives on the coast, and he doesn’t ski, so he doesn’t go there.

“This,” he said, “is the coldest winter day at home.”

Thomas’ last real bout of winter, he said, would’ve come when he first signed to play in Japan in 2005.

– Jason Beck

Firsts of 2011

First hit: Chipper Jones double, Braves, first inning vs. Washington

First strikeout: CC Sabathia, Yankees, fans Austin Jackson, Tigers, first inning

First RBI: Brian McCann single scores Chipper with first run of 2011, first inning

First sick catch: Yankees CF Curtis Granderson robs Will Rhymes with a diving grab, first inning

First home run: Jason Heyward, Braves, second inning vs. Washington

Remembering Sparky

The Reds will remember former manager Sparky Anderson with a video tribute. Anderson, the Hall of Fame skipper for Cincinnati and the Tigers, died in November at the age of 76.

Current Reds manager Dusty Baker misses Anderson and considered him a friend.

“Once I started managing and coaching, I got closer to Sparky,” Baker said on Thursday morning. “There were times I could call Sparky and ask him for advice about anything. I really miss the fact he’s not available to talk to.”

Reds take BP

— Mark Sheldon

Healthy Uecker ready for Opening Day

Bob Uecker was set for his 40th consecutive Brewers Opening Day broadcast on Thursday and revealed that, if not for one fortuitous doctor’s visit, his streak would have ended at 39.

Uecker underwent major heart surgery last April to repair a leaking aortic valve, and his return was slowed by a staph infection. By October, Uecker was feeling well enough to accept an invitation to speak at a dinner in Florida, but before traveling, he went in for one last check-up. That’s when his doctor discovered that the infection had opened another leak in Uecker’s aorta. He immediately scheduled a second surgery.

“Had I not gone for that check-up, I would have died,” Uecker said. “No doubt. Oh, no doubt. They found that hole where the staph infection had settled in and ate a hole in the new valve they put in. It was pumping blood out of my heart chamber.”

The second surgery was difficult, but deemed a success, and Uecker returned to a normal broadcast schedule in Spring Training. He’s scheduled to call all 162 games in 2011 with broadcast partner Cory Provus.

“I don’t know if I’m back to normal,” Uecker said. “My chest is a little sore yet, where they break you open. once was OK, twice is a little harder. Other than that, I feel good. … I feel stronger. I’m back swimming again [one mile per day]. I love doing that. I felt strong this spring, working-wise.”

After dropping 24 pounds last season, Uecker is back to an Opening Day weight of 190.

“That was my ‘sitting weight’ when I played,” he deadpanned.

That sense of humor never suffered during Uecker’s trying 2010. He’ll put it to work on the Brewers Radio Network this season, just like he’s done every season since stepping into the booth midway through the 1971 season. He’s done every Opening Day game since, and calculated that Thursday marked his 56th Major League opening day if you count his days as a player.

“Fifty-six years,” he said wistfully, “and I’m still not in the lineup.”

— Adam McCalvy

Let’s get it started

The last time it counted — 149 days ago to be exact — Brian Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz swinging to give the Giants their first World Series title since 1954.

Hot Stove season came and went. Spring Training games were played.

Now, it’s time for a new season.

Opening Day 2011 features six matchups (all times ET): Braves-Nationals at 1:05 p.m.; Tigers-Yankees at 1:05 p.m.; Brewers-Reds at 2:10 p.m.; Angels-Royals at 4:10 p.m.; Padres-Cardinals at 4:15 p.m.; and Giants-Dodgers at 8 p.m. in the ESPN Opening Night game.

The Giants begin their quest to become the first repeat champion since the 1998-2000 Yankees, and the first in the NL to repeat since the 1975-76 Reds. But the Phillies added Cliff Lee, giving them a philthy rotation that could be the best in MLB history. Over in the AL, the Red Sox added some serious firepower in the likes of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.

The 27 other MLB clubs begin today with the same record, the same hopes, the same dreams.  Follow us all day as we chronicle the dawn of a new season, from the first pitch on the East Coast, to the last out in SoCal. Who will rise in October? Buckle up and enjoy The Show.