Tuesday, April 5, 2016

MLB Show for April 5, 2016

Kazmir out to prove he's right for No. 2 role

Lefty Scott Kazmir will make his Dodgers regular-season debut on Tuesday night at 7:10 PT against the Padres and James Shields, who started Opening Day for San Diego last year against the Dodgers.
Fair or not, Kazmir is replacing Zack Greinke as the club's No. 2 starter. Greinke was 2-1 with 1.23 ERA against San Diego last year. In his only start against the Padres last year, as a member of the A's, Kazmir allowed three runs (two earned) during a five-inning no-decision.
Kazmir had a 5.51 ERA in Spring Training but improved as the regular season approached.
• The workhorse Shields leads all Major League pitchers with 1,988 innings since 2007 and is the only Major Leaguer to throw at least 200 innings in each of the last nine seasons.
• In his career against Kazmir, Padres shortstop Alexei Ramirez is 8-for-22 with four extra-base hits and six RBIs.
• Chase Utley, who collected three hits and two RBIs as the Dodgers' leadoff hitter in Monday's 15-0 win, is 2-for-10 with two walks and three strikeouts lifetime against Shields. The Dodgers will miss second baseman Howie Kendrick, who is on the disabled list with a strained left calf and has hit .457 in his career against Shields.

Quintana looks to keep White Sox rolling

Jose Quintana will start for the White Sox in Game 2 of this four-game set Tuesday night at the Coliseum, with a first pitch set for 10:05 p.m. ET. The A's starting pitcher was determined after a 4-3 White Sox victory on Monday night, with Chris Bassitt getting the call.
Sonny Gray, who was scratched from his planned Opening Day start with food poisoning, now will face the White Sox on Wednesday. Bassitt originally was scheduled to start Game 3 of this series, but moves up to face his old team.
Bassitt was one of the four players the White Sox sent to Oakland for right-handed starter Jeff Samardzija two offseasons ago.
Nobody should benefit more from an improved White Sox offense than Quintana. After all, Quintana has the dubious honor of 52 no-decisions since 2012, which is a number that leads all of baseball during that time. The southpaw also received a 3.62 run support average in '15, representing the second-lowest mark in the American League and sixth-lowest in the Majors.
Things to know
• White Sox manager Robin Ventura remains undecided on who will start behind the plate Tuesday, waiting for the A's to announce their starting pitcher. Dioner Navarro took over for Alex Avila on Opening Day when left-hander Rich Hill moved to the mound.
• Jimmy Rollins (37 years, 126 days) became the White Sox oldest Opening Day shortstop since Luke Appling (42 years, 17 days) in 1949.
• A's projected fifth starter Felix Doubront was placed on the disabled list Monday with a sprained left elbow and will seek a second opinion to determine his next course of action. Oakland will need to call up a starter for Friday's series opener in Seattle, and it's expected to be either left-hander Eric Surkamp or right-hander Jesse Hahn.

Lefties Heaney, Lester duel to wrap opening series

A year ago, Jon Lester was still trying to get to know everyone's names on the Cubs. Now, the left-hander can take a deep breath as he makes his first start of the regular season Tuesday night facing the Angels' young lefty Andrew Heaney.
Heaney, 24, is coming off a 3.49 ERA in 18 starts in his rookie season. The lefty was pretty much a lock to crack the rotation in Spring Training, but moved to the No. 2 slot with Tyler Skaggs not ready to come back from Tommy John, C.J. Wilson starting the year on the disabled list, and Jered Weaver throwing 80 mph.
Heaney has 135 career innings over two years, and those numbers would be considered an off year for Lester, 32, who has totaled 200 innings in seven of his last eight seasons (and missed doing so in 2011 by 8 1/3 innings).
Heaney has never faced any of the Cubs. Chicago ranked 12th in the National League last season against left-handed pitching, batting a collective .238. Anthony Rizzo defied the sabermaticians and batted .294 against southpaws (compared to .272 vs. right-handers).
This isn't the last meeting between these two teams. They'll square off again Aug. 9-10 at Wrigley Field and play under National League rules.
What to watch for:
• With Lester starting, the Angels will switch up their lineup. Right-handed-hitting Craig Gentry will replace Daniel Nava in left field and may bat second. Kole Calhoun will probably move from fifth to sixth.
• Albert Pujols has hit 56 career home runs against the Cubs, his most against any opponent. Of course, most of those came when he was with the Cardinals. He's ninth on the all-time home run list against the Cubs, with eight Hall of Famers ahead of him.
• Chicago catcher David Ross, 39, who has announced he's retiring after this season, will be paired up with Lester. Ross enters this season needing four home runs to finish with 100 in his career.
• The 2015 season was the year of the rookie for the Cubs, with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber making their Major League debuts, and Bryant winning National League Rookie of the Year honors. This season, the Cubs begin without a rookie on the Opening Day roster. According to baseball historian Ed Hartig, a rookie has been on the Opening Day roster in 15 of the last 20 seasons. The exceptions include 1996, '99, 2002, '07 and '12.

D-backs' Miller, Rox's Bettis face off in middle game

The new-look D-backs unveil another offseason acquisition against the Rockies on Tuesday night -- right-hander Shelby Miller, who has to believe he'll have much greater fortune than he experienced last season with the Braves.
Miller, making his official D-backs debut, led the National League in losses last year while going 6-17, but his 3.02 ERA in 32 starts was deserving of much better. Five losses came when he gave up two or fewer runs, and his 2.54 runs of support finished near the bottom of the league. Miller finished tied for 10th in the NL in quality starts with 21.
Colorado righty Chad Bettis, with a solid season (8-6, 4.23 ERA) in 2015, had some hard luck against Arizona last year. In his final start, on Sept. 30, Bettis gave up two runs (one earned) in six innings, yet was tagged with the 6-4 defeat.
Three things to know
• The Rockies know Miller well. On May 10, 2013, he threw a one-hit complete game in a 3-0 victory for the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Eric Young Jr. had the lone Colorado hit.
• But the Rockies know more than misery against Miller. Center fielder Charlie Blackmon is 4-for-12 with a triple against him.
• Bettis, like many pitchers, must be careful with the D-backs' Paul Goldschmidt, who has bested him to the tune of 3-for-7 with two doubles.

Cueto set for Giants debut against Brewers

For proof that statistics can be deceiving, check Johnny Cueto's career performance against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Cueto, who's scheduled to make his first regular-season start as a Giant when he faces the Brewers on Tuesday, owns a 9-3 record with a 2.87 ERA in 18 lifetime starts against Milwaukee. However, the Brewers have enjoyed the upper hand against Cueto at Miller Park, where he's 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in seven outings. Pitchers tend to have rough times at Miller Park, where fly balls carry easily. Cueto ought to have enough savvy to survive at the retractable-roofed site, having spent most of his career pitching home games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Right-hander Jimmy Nelson, who starts Tuesday for Milwaukee, performed about as well here last year as any pitcher can hope for. Nelson finished 5-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 14 outings at Miller Park, compared with 6-9, 4.76 in 16 road assignments.
Things to know about this game
• Bruce Bochy is entering his 10th season as San Francisco's manager. His only predecessors to reach double figures were John McGraw (1902-32), Bill Terry (1932-41) and Dusty Baker (1993-2002).
• Having a retractable roof at home comes with advantages. In the Brewers' case, since they know foul weather can't force a postponement, they typically open the season at Miller Park. Monday marked their fifth consecutive season opener at home.
• The Giants employed an all-homegrown infield in a season opener for the first time since 1993 on Monday. The last such foursome consisted of first baseman Will Clark, second baseman Robby Thompson, shortstop Royce Clayton and third baseman Matt Williams.

Perez confident heading into start vs. Seattle

The American League West rival Rangers and Mariners play the second game of their season-opening series Tuesday night at Globe Life Park, with Texas left-hander Martin Perez facing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. Texas won the opener, 3-2.
Perez, who turned 25 on Monday, is looking to build on a 2015 season in which he went 3-6 with 4.46 ERA in 14 starts after returning from Tommy John surgery in midseason. Two of those starts were against the Mariners -- both at Safeco Field -- and he went 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings.
"It's time to compete. Spring Training is done," Perez said. "I feel good. I feel ready. I trust what I have, throw my stuff and do my job. I know my guys are behind me and they are going to support me. I don't care what lineup we face. We need to work as a team and win the game."
Iwakuma beat the Rangers twice in their two meetings last year, and the 34-year-old from Japan has pitched well throughout his career against Texas, going 8-3 with a 3.43 ERA in 14 games. The 2013 All-Star feels the Mariners have improved their defense this season, particularly with a more athletic outfield due to the addition of former Ranger Leonys Martin in center field and Norichika Aoki in left.
"Being on the mound, I feel that a lot," Iwakuma said. "I can rely on the defense more with all my pitches and I feel very comfortable being able to say that."
Things to know about this game
• Perez is 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA in eight career games (six starts) against the Mariners. He's had trouble with third baseman Kyle Seager, who has hit .500 with three homers and five RBIs against him in 20 at-bats. That's the highest average Seager has against any lefty he's faced with at least 10 plate appearances, and it's the most home runs he's hit against any pitcher.
• The Rangers have seen a lot of Iwakuma over the past four years, and the player with the most success against him has been Adrian Beltre (.306 with three homers and five RBIs in 36 at-bats). Rougned Odor has only had 11 at-bats against him, but he's hit .455 with a home run.
• First baseman Dae-Ho Lee, a 33-year-old from Korea who was one of the top power hitters in Japan the past four years, will get his first MLB start for the Mariners. Manager Scott Servais played Adam Lind at first base in the opener, but he will normally use the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Lee against southpaw starters. Lee hit .282 with 31 home runs in 141 games last year in the Japan Pacific League. Lee and Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo attended the same elementary school growing up in Busan, South Korea, and remain close friends.

Odorizzi tasked with taming potent Jays lineup

A pair of promising right-handers will be matched up against each other on Tuesday night, when Aaron Sanchez gets the start for Toronto and Jake Odorizzi takes the mound for Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field.
Odorizzi will have the difficult task of trying to tame a lineup that is expected to be the best in baseball again this season. Toronto led the Major Leagues in runs last season, with 891, and intends to do more of the same in 2016 with a core that has remained mostly intact.
"We all know what they're capable of doing," Odorizzi said. "Everybody knows about it. Everybody's aware. Just looking to go out there and have success any way possible. Whoever is catching tomorrow, we'll get a good game plan. And I'll have seen them twice before I pitch."
Sanchez will make his first start of the season for Toronto after being named to the rotation during the final week of Spring Training. Sanchez finished on top following a difficult competition that also included Gavin Floyd, Jesse Chavez and Drew Hutchison.
"Things weren't right last year," Sanchez said. "Nothing seemed to click. But this year, all of the work that I put in, it feels like I'm out there effortlessly with my mechanics, and I feel like that was a big part of my issues last year. I wasn't in the right spot to execute the pitches, and this year it's much more stable to be in the right positions without even thinking about it."
Three things to know about this game:
• Odorizzi is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in six career starts against the Blue Jays. He did not yield a home run in the first four starts but allowed two in each of the last two outings.
• The Blue Jays will have Russell Martin back behind the plate. He had the day off on Monday because knuckleballer R.A. Dickey was on the mound, and Dickey has a personal catcher in Josh Thole. First baseman Justin Smoak also likely will make his first start of the season after Chris Colabello started the first two games.
• In their last 25 visits to Tropicana Field, the Blue Jays have won only three series. The Rays are 21-3-1 over that span.

With 'plenty left,' Verlander takes hill in Miami

The Tigers and Marlins get the season underway on Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. ET with the first game of a two-game Interleague set at Marlins Park, and both teams are confident following some new additions.
The Marlins have a new manager in Don Mattingly, a new hitting coach in Barry Bonds and even a new Opening Day starter, free-agent signee Wei-Yin Chen.
The left-handed Chen will face long-time Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who was injured for part of last season but is feeling strong after a healthy spring.
"As long as my mechanics are good, I think I proved last year that there's plenty left in the tank," the right-handed Verlander said.
The goal for the Marlins is to improve their run production and, congruently, their wins total. Miami finished fourth in the National League last season with a .260 team batting average but 14th out of 15 with 613 runs scored. Consequently, they lost 91 games.
"I liked their lineup; I think they were a team that hit for a pretty high average and got a lot of hits but didn't score a lot of runs," said Mattingly, who was manager of the Dodgers last season and watched the Marlins from afar. "That tells you a lot. Sometimes it tells you that you're not doing the little things as far as moving runners, getting guys in from third -- doing the little things that it takes to win games."
The Tigers start with a recast front office, Al Avila having replaced Dave Dombrowski as vice president of baseball operations and general manager. Dombrowski went on to the Red Sox, and Avila spearheaded an offseason rebuild.
The Tigers have a new look on the field thanks to Avila's ability to sign a trio of high-profile free agents. The club should be improved at the back end of the bullpen with Francisco Rodriguez and his 386 career saves as the closer. Detroit also added Justin Upton in left field and right-hander Jordan Zimmermann to the starting rotation.
Collectively, those three players cost the Tigers $259.75 million. The goal is to get Detroit back to the postseason. Until last year, the Tigers had won four consecutive American League Central titles, losing twice in the AL Championship Series and once in the World Series, where they were swept by the Giants in 2012.
Last year, the Tigers fell to last place, 20 1/2 games behind the eventual World Series-winning Royals.
In Motown, a season with 87 losses is just not acceptable. Now, manager Brad Ausmus has new pieces to generate a return to prominence.
"I'm confident in the team," Ausmus said. "The health issue is always a concern. I think the health issue, especially on the pitching side, is the one thing that always concerns me. I'm probably more aware of it this year because of what happened last year."
The Marlins haven't reached the postseason since the surprising Jack McKeon-led squad beat the Yankees in the 2003 World Series. In fact, the Marlins have made the postseason just twice since their inception in 1993, both times claiming a Wild Card spot en route to a World Series title.
Mattingly, the eighth Marlins manager since McKeon retired, will try to mold one of the most promising young outfields in the game into a productive unit: Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. The standout of the group, Stanton missed 88 games last year because of a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
Tutoring Mattingly's hitters will be Bonds, Major League Baseball's all-time leader with 762 home runs.
"We have an offense that can play," said Bonds. "They're all still young; they're still developing. We have a good combination of things. We have speed, we have power.
"We have three guys on this team who can hit 25 or more home runs. That's a great combination to have on one team -- three guys who can really tattoo a baseball."
Tigers' projected Opening Day lineup
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Justin Upton, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
J.D. Martinez, RF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
James McCann, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
Anthony Gose, CF
Justin Verlander, RHP
Marlins' projected Opening Day lineup
Dee Gordon, 2B
Marcell Ozuna, CF
Christian Yelich, LF
Giancarlo Stanton, RF
Martin Prado, 3B
Justin Bour, 1B
J.T. Realmuto, C
Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Wei-Yin Chen, LHP

Niese's Pirates debut comes vs. Wacha, Cards

After opening a new Major League season, the Cardinals and Pirates will return to action on Tuesday in the first night game of 2016 at PNC Park. It's the setting in which Jonathon Niese will make his Pittsburgh debut, as well.
Swapped for Pirates lifer Neil Walker -- and, fittingly, taking his No. 18 -- this past offseason, Niese will make his first career start out of a Mets uniform. The December trade that landed him in the Pirates' rotation ended his 11-year tenure in New York's organization.
Things did not go so smoothly for Niese this spring, however. He allowed four earned runs in three of his four Grapefruit League starts, and, in total, gave up 14 on 18 hits over 15 spring innings.
Michael Wacha, Tuesday's scheduled starter for the Cardinals, had a similarly uneven spring. But after allowing eight earned runs over his first four spring starts (12 2/3 innings), Wacha closed Grapefruit League play with five strong scoreless innings. He credited a mechanical tweak for the improved command his last time out.
Things to know about the game
• Gregory Polanco (6-for-12) and Andrew McCutchen (8-for-19) have had notable career success against Wacha, who is 3-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven regular-season games (six starts) vs. the Pirates.
• Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates won't have a designated seventh-inning reliever. Pittsburgh could use setup man Tony Watson in the seventh, Hurdle said, and former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz will have "every opportunity" to pitch late in games.

Thor matches with Young after Royals get their rings

First the Mets had to stand on Kauffman Stadium's third-base line as they watched the Royals -- the team that beat them in the 2015 World Series -- raise their championship banner. Now they must watch the Royals receive their rings.
Kansas City's week-long party continues at Kauffman on Tuesday, when the Mets and Royals meet for Game 2 of their season, with the Royals' Chris Young opposing Mets starter Noah Syndergaard.
The two right-handers offer an extreme contrast in styles. A late replacement for the injured Ian Kennedy, Young threw his average four-seam fastball last season with the sixth-lowest velocity (87 mph) of anyone in baseball, according to Statcast. Syndergaard, by contrast, led the game with a 97.4-mph average four-seamer -- the type he used to knock down Alcides Escobar during Game 3 of the World Series.
Syndergaard recently spoke about how he believes that episode, to which the Royals took offense, is in the past.
"I don't think they're too fond of me, but as far as retaliation goes, I really don't know what they're going to retaliate against," Syndergaard said. "All I did was establish the inner part of the plate. So I don't know what this whole retaliation talk is all about. But it's going to be an interesting time."
Things to know about the game:
• Though Juan Lagares started in center field on Opening Night, pushing Yoenis Cespedes to left and Michael Conforto to designated hitter, the Mets may shake things up as soon as Tuesday. Because Young is traditionally better against right-handed hitting, the Mets are tentatively planning to use Alejandro De Aza in the outfield instead of Lagares.
• Young, who played for the Mets from 2011-12, doesn't have much history against New York's current crop of hitters. But what little he does have has been solid; David Wright and Cespedes are a combined 2-for-20 with five walks in their careers against Young.
• Starting pitcher Steven Matz will be available out of the bullpen on Tuesday if the Mets need him either in short or long relief. The Mets have not announced when Matz will join the rotation, in part because they don't know how much -- if at all -- they will use him in Kansas City.

Cy matchup for Papi's last Opening Day

Facing a Cy Young winner in the first week of April already qualifies as unfair. Throw in the potential for rain or snow and temperatures just north of freezing, and that classifies as cruel. In fact, the season opener, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed to Tuesday due to cold temperatures.
But for the hitters on the Red Sox and Indians, that's how the 2016 season -- and the last hurrah for the legendary David Ortiz -- will begin. And for the rest of us, David Price vs. Corey Kluber is an unmistakable Opening Day attraction.
The Price-Kluber matchup will be just the seventh time on Opening Day where both starting pitchers won a Cy Young Award sometime over the previous four seasons. The other matchups occurred between R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays) and Price (Rays) on March 31, 2014; Randy Johnson (Yankees) vs. Barry Zito (A's) on April 3, 2006; Johan Santana (Twins) vs. Roy Halladay (Blue Jays) on April 4, 2006; and Steve Carlton (Phillies) vs. Tom Seaver (Mets) on April 8, 1975, April 6, 1974, and April 6, 1973.
Price is the key acquisition for a Red Sox club many are -- once again -- projecting to go from worst to first in the deep American League East, and Kluber is the leader of an Indians rotation getting widespread industry acclaim as good enough to lead the Tribe to the top of the deep AL Central. They'll oppose each other at 1:10 p.m. ET Tuesday in Progressive Field conditions expected to be idyllic -- for pitching prominence.
Such prominence is what the Red Sox expect in the front end of their rotation from Price and the back end of their bullpen from Craig Kimbrel. A 4.31 staff ERA that was the sixth-highest in the Majors last season masked many of the strides the Red Sox saw from young position players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Travis Shaw (who beat out handsomely Pablo Sandoval for the starting third-base job) and prompted aggressive action from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.
Now, the Red Sox feel they have something more closely resembling a total package. And they'll need it if they're going to rise from the rut of consecutive seasons with win totals in the 70s and give Ortiz a victory lap on the World Series stage.
"We return most everyone from the fifth-most productive offense in baseball last year," said Red Sox manager John Farrell, "and there's no reason we can't continue to improve upon it."
One of Farrell's closest friends in baseball is Tribe manager Terry Francona. When Farrell was diagnosed with Stage 1 lymphoma last summer, Francona accompanied him to his first chemotherapy treatment.
Thankfully, Farrell has come out cancer-free, and now the focus is on the field. And both Farrell and Francona have teams not to be taken lightly, even if the latter's club does not come equipped with much payroll power.
For the Indians, runs might be difficult to come by not just on Opening Day against Price, but in general. Their most consistent offensive presence, Michael Brantley, will be absent from the opener as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery, and their outfield has been further rattled by the suspension of Abraham Almonte and the wrist impingement holding back Lonnie Chisenhall.
But as the 2015 season evolved, the Indians had a remarkable turnaround in their defensive play, thanks in large measure to the arrival of Rookie of the Year runner-up Francisco Lindor, and their starting staff beyond Kluber made major strides with Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar developing into legitimate ace types all their own.
Of course, the Indians would still like to sprinkle in some runs, and they're counting on another big year from Jason Kipnis and bounce-back seasons from Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes and the newly added Mike Napoli to make it happen.
"I hope we're not just a pitching and defense team, because I don't know if that's good enough," Francona told reporters. "But I do know that doing that, you're going to stay in most games."
The first game is a doozy -- the AL's 2012 Cy Young Award winner Price opposing the 2014 winner Kluber. The temperature will be low, and so might the run totals. But these are two clubs with the capability to be playing in similarly cold climates come October.
Red Sox's projected Opening Day lineup
Mookie Betts, RF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Xander Bogaerts, SS
David Ortiz, DH
Hanley Ramirez, 1B
Travis Shaw, 3B
Brock Holt, LF
Blake Swihart, C
Jackie Bradley Jr., CF
David Price, LHP
Indians' projected Opening Day lineup
Rajai Davis, LF
Jason Kipnis, 2B
Francisco Lindor, SS
Mike Napoli, 1B
Carlos Santana, DH
Yan Gomes, C
Marlon Byrd, RF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Collin Cowgill, CF
Corey Kluber, RHP

Keuchel, Tanaka meet in WC rematch after rainout

They had to wait a day due to inclement weather, but for the Astros to open this season of hope and optimism at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET is absolutely perfect.
First, there's the symbolism. This is baseball's grandest stage, its brightest lights, and to play here on this occasion is to feel the history.
This also is where the Astros had their finest moment of 2015, a 3-0 victory over the Yankees in the American League Wild Card Game.
They celebrated wildly, a bunch of young guys soaking in a moment they'd never had before, having risen from nowhere to make their first playoff appearance in a decade.
Now comes the next step, and baseball's roadside is littered with teams that flashed greatness, then disappeared. That's the challenge for the Astros.
Is shortstop Carlos Correa going to be the game's next great player? Are Dallas Keuchel, George Springer and Jose Altuve players good enough to fill ballparks and win championships?
This season is about finding out what that next step is. This bright and shiny new thing they have is called expectations.
They can look across the diamond today and see what real expectations look like. Expectations are such a constant for the Yankees that they don't even acknowledge them or talk about them. They may not even understand them. 
Their deal is simple.
When the Yankees win the World Series, they've had an acceptable season. When they don't, they've come up short. Life is simple.
So are the Yankees good enough to win a championship in 2016? Absolutely. Their trick will be getting through the season relatively healthy, but that's part of the blueprint for every team.
Three other keys for the Yankees:
• Productive seasons (and good health) from older players CC Sabathia, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira.
• Quality starts and rotation depth from Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino.
• Production from the farm system. Whether that's right-hander James Kaprielian or outfielder Aaron Judge or someone else, the best Yankees kids need to produce when they're needed.
These are transitional years, of sorts, for the Yankees as they attempt to move from a roster dependent on big-ticket free agents to one that uses a more traditional player-development formula.
They've avoided splashy free-agent signings these past two offseasons, and to return to the playoffs in 2015, despite using 33 pitchers, was an accomplishment in itself.
But since they're the Yankees and because only the bottom line matters, all a lot of people will remember is that they got into, then lost, the AL Wild Card Game.
Now things are moving briskly in the right direction. Owner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman believe their farm system is in better shape than it has been in years.
If things work out the way the Yankees believe they might, they could get a boost of youth and energy during the season similar to what the Astros had in 2015.
Are the Astros better than the Yankees on this Opening Day? Yes, they appear to be.
Their defense and bullpen are among the best in baseball. Their lineup is deeper by having Correa and center fielder Carlos Gomez for a full season.
This Opening Day -- albeit delayed -- is a first step, nothing more, for both clubs. But it's a fascinating way to begin this journey.
Astros' projected Opening Day lineup
Jose Altuve, 2B
George Springer, RF
Carlos Correa, SS
Colby Rasmus, LF
Carlos Gomez, CF
Luis Valbuena, 3B
Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
Preston Tucker, DH
Jason Castro, C
Dallas Keuchel, LHP
Yankees' projected Opening Day lineup
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Aaron Hicks, LF
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Brian McCann, C
Chase Headley, 3B
Starlin Castro, 2B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Masahiro Tanaka, RHP

Sale fans 8 as White Sox edge A's

White Sox ace Chris Sale christened the 2016 season with eight strikeouts on Monday night, holding the A's to three runs across seven innings to help Chicago pull out a 4-3 victory on Opening Day at the Coliseum.
Run-scoring hits from Adam Eaton and Jimmy Rollins highlighted a four-run third inning for the White Sox, who gave three right back in the bottom half when Jed Lowrie notched a two-run single and Danny Valencia tacked on an RBI base hit, but Chicago held on the rest of the way to secure the opener of the four-game series.
"That's part of going through this. These guys have been battle-tested, as far as the bullpen," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "They've always had close games. We haven't had a real big offense in the last few years, so they're used to it. They're used to real close games."
"It was a hard-fought game, it really was," Sale said. "It was a battle the whole time. It was just nice to start off with a win."
A's left-hander Rich Hill, pitching in place of an ill Sonny Gray, endured a forgettable debut in the green and gold, lasting just 2 2/3 innings while allowing four runs (two earned) on three hits, one walk and two hit batters. Oakland's bullpen combined for 6 1/3 scoreless innings thereafter.
"It was just the deep counts I got myself into and the inability to go deep in the game," Hill said. "That's disappointing for myself and obviously the reason why we lost the game."
Third is the word: The White Sox made the most of their offense in Game 1 behind a four-run third inning. They knocked out four hits in the frame, including a run-scoring single from Rollins, who was playing in his hometown of Oakland. Through six, the White Sox had the one explosive frame and five hitless innings.
Two-out trouble: Hill should've been out of the third inning, and with only two runs to his name, but a potential inning-ending ground ball resulted in two runs when first basemanMark Canha couldn't haul in a high throw from shortstop Marcus Semien. The error went to Canha, and Hill was promptly removed from the game with his pitch count sitting at 66.
"That's what happens when you give extra outs. Can't do that," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We learned that last year. We've learned it this spring. In close games, it typically ends up being a play like that, a play or two defensively that you should make. We've talked about the routine plays ... and we don't execute the one play that cost us two runs, cost us the game."
Abreu with the D: Jose Abreu has carved out a niche as one of the American League's better hitters, and he knocked out a double during the Chicago's four-run third. But he also flashed some leather at first base on Monday, including a play on Stephen Vogt down the line to prevent extra bases to open the seventh.
Relief in sight: Hill's short outing afforded the A's a chance to get a long look at their reconstructed bullpen, which responded with fantastic work to keep the club in the game -- highlighted by Ryan Dull's two perfect innings. Dull, Fernando RodriguezJohn Axford,Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle limited the White Sox to four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"You bring in those guys, Petey and Duke and Jonesy and D-Rob, they've got big arms. It's fun to watch. I'm glad they're on my side." -- Sale, on the bullpen work over the final two innings
Eaton didn't drive in a run last season until his 109th plate appearance. He waited all the way until his second at-bat in 2016, when the right fielder tripled home Austin Jackson. It also was the White Sox first hit of the season.
"To start the season with a win on the road is special. It's good to see," Eaton said. "We got off on the right foot the right way, with a big inning. And to have solid pitching toward the tail end, it's a good sign for us."
The White Sox challenged a ninth-inning ruling that Brett Lawrie was out at second after he was picked off at first by Doolittle. After video replay, the call was confirmed, ending the top of the ninth.
White Sox: One of the most underrated players in the game, Jose Quintana, begins his fourth season as part of the White Sox starting rotation and fifth season with the team overall. Quintana holds the dubious honor of 52 no-decisions since 2012, ranking tops in the Majors. He'll make his 2016 debut on Tuesday in a 9:05 p.m. CT matchup with the A's.
A's: The A's could have their ace, Gray, back on the mound for Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. PT matchup. Gray was scheduled to start Opening Day but was scratched because of food poisoning. If he's held out another day, right-hander Chris Bassitt will likely draw the start at the Coliseum.