For the third time in five years, the San Francisco Giants will open the season as the reigning World Series champions and baseball's poster team for continuity. Once again, they'll do it on the road, this time taking on a National League West foe that has gone through key organizational changes in the last calendar year, the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Madison Bumgarner will be throwing his first official pitches since a transcendent performance in Game 7 of the World Series against the Royals last October, meeting veteran right-hander Josh Collmenter as the D-backs and Giants kick off 2015 on Monday at Chase Field.
The Giants, whose 3-for-5 run of titles is the NL's best since the 1942-46 Cardinals, enter 2015 not only with the big lefty on the mound but with Angel Pagan back in center field and a change at third base. Gone is three-ring hero Pablo Sandoval and now Casey McGehee takes over at the hot corner after an RBI-machine comeback season with the Marlins in 2014.
Beyond that, it's a lot of what has been there for the Giants for years -- their starters, including Matt Cain after an injury-marred 2014, their bullpen, and centerpiece catcher Buster Posey, making his fifth consecutive Opening Day start. Also, lest we forget, a manager now with Cooperstown credentials, Bruce Bochy, and the general manager in San Francisco for going on two decades, Brian Sabean.
The D-backs, on the other hand, have major changes in the front office with a couple of World Series resumes in the mix. Tony La Russa and Dave Stewart along with De Jon Watson head Arizona's baseball operations now, and rookie manager Chip Hale leads the club in the dugout.
Much of the on-field personnel is intact from last year, with All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's return to health sure to be a boost, but on the other hand Monday's game is expected to mark the debut of Cuban native Yasmany Tomas at third base.
Collmenter elevates to his first Opening Day start after years bouncing between the rotation and relief, winning 10 games and posting a 3.54 ERA in his career-high 28 starts last year.
"To get us off to a good start and just everything that goes into Opening Day -- the pageantry and the spectacle it is, to be the one to toe the rubber the first time is pretty special, especially with my career just bouncing back and forth from starting to the 'pen," Collmenter said.
Then, there's the guy who got to throw the final pitch of the previous season. Bumgarner, 25, makes his first start after an epic 52 2/3 innings of work last October keyed the Giants' latest title run, and he is in the spotlight more than ever. Bumgarner has been consistently strong throughout his first five seasons, reaching career highs with 217 1/3 innings and 219 strikeouts in 2014. He enters 2015 with a 3.06 career ERA as he approaches the key 1,000-inning milestone.