Major League Baseball (MLB) returns to action on Sunday, 2 April with a three game slate that includes the New York Yankees travelling to Tampa Bay, San Francisco Giants headed to Arizona, and the World Champion Chicago Cubs taking on their hated rival the St Louis Cardinals. In the game that gets the year started in Tampa Bay, the Yankees new look lineup includes free agent Matt Holliday as the Designated Hitter, and returning youngsters Gary Sanchez at catcher with Greg Bird taking over at First Base. The Yankee rotation will be challenged to get the game to their bullpen that includes set up man Dellin Betances and returning closer Aroldis Chapman. Expected Opening Day starter for the Yankees will be Masahiro Tanaka while the number two through five starters will be Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Chad Green, and Bryan Mitchell. The Rays have added a couple of free agents to their starting lineup in shortstop Matthew Duffy, outfielder Colby Rasmus and will once again lean on long time Ray third baseman Evan Longoria as their chief run producer. The starting staff ace and Opening Day starter will be Chris Archer who the Rays hope will turn in better results than his 2016 campaign. Jake Odorizzi, Alex Cobb, Matt Andriese, and Blake Snel will round out the starting staff that will be relied upon to get the game into the hands of closer Alex Colomb.
In the middle game of Opening Day, the Giants hope to get out of the gate fast, and will have a good chance to do so, with staff ace Madison Bumgarner taking the hill. Following Bumgarner in the rotation will be Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Matt Moore, and Ty Blach. As long as the starters can get the game to newly acquired free agent Mark Melancon, the Giants will have a successful 2017. Melancon enjoyed his most successful season in 2016 as he locked down 47 saves with a minuscule 1.64 earned run average in 71 innings pitched. The offense is intact from a year ago with the club looking for good years from Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, and Hunter Pence. The Diamondbacks have a healthy A.J. Pollock back in the mix and will count on first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to lead the offense. Opening Day starting pitcher Zack Greinke will look to rebound from a disappointing 2016 season while Robbie Ray, newly acquired Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley, and Shelby Miller will be counted on to keep the game close as the closer role has yet to be determined between Daniel Hudson and Randall Delgado.
The nightcap will be anticipated by all to determine how the Cubs will react to being World Champions. Jon Lester will take the hill and will be counted on to carry out another 200 strikeout and 200 plus inning year. Number two starter Jake Arrieta will be focused as this is his last year of his contract and will playing for an increased salary in 2018. The Cubs will go with Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Mike Montgomery to finish out their starting staff. Closer duties will be taken on by free agent signee Wade Davis, formerly of the Kansas City Royals. The bats are the same as the Cubs will look for Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo to be their chief run producers and are hopeful for a break out year by outfielder Kyle Schwarber who will bat second in the lineup. The Cardinals will send out Carlos Martinez on Opening Day who is fresh off of a newly signed 51 million dollar contract. They will bank on a healthy Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Lance Lynn to chew up innings so closer Seung-Hwan Oh can lock down the win. Free agent Dexter Fowler will lead off and be counted on to get on base for run producers Stephen Piscotty and Matt Carpenter to drive him in.