Opening day continues to roll with plenty of teams making their season debuts on Good Friday. Check out our quick-hitting notes for all nine of Friday’s MLB contests:
Chicago White Sox at Texas Rangers (-185, 9.5)
After coming within an out of the World Series title in 2011, the Texas Rangers will take the first step toward getting back to baseball's grand stage on Friday when they open their season against the visiting the Chicago White Sox. Slugger Josh Hamilton has been in the news this offseason due to his struggles with alcohol, but the 2010 American League MVP is as solid as they come at the plate.
Faced with a stern test in his managerial debut, Chicago's Robin Ventura will look to get Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham untracked after disappointing 2011 seasons. Ironically, Ventura will make his debut against a team owned by Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, with whom he had a memorable - and painful - exchange on the diamond 19 years ago.
TV: 2:05 p.m. ET, CSN (Chicago), FSH (Texas)
PITCHING MATCHUP: White Sox LH John Danks (2011: 8-12, 4.33 ERA) vs. Rangers RH Colby Lewis (2011: 14-10, 4.40 ERA)
Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles (-133, 9)
Every season seems like a rebuilding one for the Orioles, who head into the 2012 schedule with plenty of promising prospects in their lineup. Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds make up the heart of the order but don’t pack a real punch at the plate. Minnesota has the pop but needs it to stay healthy. Joe Mauer, Denard Span and Justin Morneau all missed time with injury, especially Morneau who will start as the Twins designated hitter after a long recovery from a concussion.
Minnesota is coming off a 63-99 record in 2011 – its second-worst season since moving to the Twin Cities in 1961. The Twins lost outfielder Michael Cuddyer to free agency this offseason but replaced him with Josh Willingham, who hit .246 with 29 home runs and 98 RBIs with Oakland last year. The Orioles celebrate the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards in 2012 and are hoping to post their first winning season since 1997.
TV: 3:05 p.m. ET, MASN HD, WJZ (Baltimore)/ FS-N (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Twins RH Carl Pavano (2011: 9-13, 4.30 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Jake Arrieta (2011: 10-8, 5.05 ERA)
New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays (+120, 7)
As two members of the powerhouse American League East, the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays each have expectations of World Series greatness in 2012. Last season ended in disappointment, as both the Rays and Yankees made the playoffs but failed to advance past the first round. Each team has improved in the offseason, with New York upgrading its rotation through trades and free agency and Tampa Bay doing what it does best by graduating young talent.
The Yankees’ offense is a year older but is still stacked from top to bottom with MVP candidates like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira taking over as anchors. The Rays have their own star in Evan Longoria but will always rely more on their pitching, which looks like the best in the league as top prospect Matt Moore joins the rotation. Tampa Bay took 10 of the 18 meetings last season, including a three-game sweep in the final series that got it to the playoffs.
TV: 3:10 p.m. ET, YES (New York), Sun (Tampa Bay)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Yankees LH CC Sabathia (2011: 19-8, 3.00 ERA) vs. Rays RH James Shields (2011: 16-12, 2.98 ERA)
St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers (-120, 7.5)
The World Series champion Cardinals won their season opener against Miami and will try to continue their momentum against the Brewers, who they defeated 4-2 in the NL Championship Series last season. Former manager Tony La Russa retired in the offseason and Albert Pujols signed with the Angels in free agency, leaving St. Louis without two of its most recognizable faces. Still, there’s plenty of talent left over from last year’s team, which finished 90-72 en route to its second championship since 2006. Milwaukee, which won the NL Central in 2011, also lost a star to free agency when Prince Fielder signed with Detroit. Fielder hit 38 home runs and 120 RBI last year. The Brewers’ biggest offseason signing was Aramis Ramirez, a 33-year-old third baseman who hit 26 home runs and 93 RBI with the Cubs.
St. Louis won 23 of its final 31 games last year before breezing through the playoffs. The Cardinals went 4-5 at Miller Park, but were the only team in the league to sweep the Brewers at their home stadium. Milwaukee ace Yovani Gallardo has struggled historically against the Cardinals, posting a 1-7 record and 5.66 ERA in 11 outings.
TV: 4:10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Midwest (St. Louis), FSN (Milwaukee)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals LH Jaime Garcia (2011: 13-7, ERA 3.56) vs. Brewers RH Yovani Gallardo (2011: 17-10, ERA 3.52)
Colorado Rockies at Houston Astros (+113, 8)
New owner Jim Crane will receive his first look at his $610 million investment when the Houston Astros host the Colorado Rockies in the teams' season opener on Friday. With a move to the American League awaiting them in 2013, the Astros have plenty of room for an improvement following a league-worst 106-loss season.
While Houston is in a rebuilding mode, Colorado could make a run at contending in the NL West should a few breaks go its way. With a weak schedule and 13 of their first 22 games at home, the Rockies can make some noise early in 2012.
TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Colorado), FSH (Houston)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Rockies RH Jeremy Guthrie (2011: 9-17, 4.33 ERA) vs. Astros LH Wandy Rodriguez (2011: 11-11, 3.49 ERA)
San Francisco Giants at Arizona Diamondbacks (-113, 7)
The Giants and Diamondbacks open the schedule against each other and could very well be battling all season long for dominance in the National League West. San Francisco boosted its lineup with the additions of Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera but will be without second baseman Freddy Sanchez to start the year. Arizona won’t be catching the majors off guard after winning the NL West last season. The Diamondbacks won’t have shortstop Stephen Drew to begin 2012, but have a promising lineup with Justin Upton and Miguel Montero coming off career seasons.
The Giants' strength remains their pitching staff, which was solidified this offseason with contract extensions to Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. San Francisco finished with a 3.20 ERA last season – second best in the NL. The Diamondbacks hit .246 and averaged just over four runs per game against the Giants last year.
TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, FS-A (Arizona)/ CSN-BA HD (San Francisco)/ESPN2
PITCHING MATCHUP: Giants RH Tim Lincecum (2011: 13-14, 2.74 ERA) vs. Diamondback RH Ian Kennedy (2011: 21-4, 2.88 ERA)
Seattle Mariners at Oakland Athletics (-142, 7)
The opening series that began in the Far East moves to the Pacific Coast as the Oakland Athletics host the Seattle Mariners on Friday. The two American League West rivals teams split two games in Tokyo last week and follow up with a two-game series. Surprisingly, Seattle ace Felix Hernandez won’t be starting as the club moved him back a day in the rotation so he can start against Oakland in the home opener on April 13.
Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes plays his first regular-season game in front of the Oakland fans after making a splash in Japan with a booming two-run blast in the Athletics’ victory on March 29. Cespedes signed a four-year, $36 million deal with the typically frugal franchise. Seattle’s Ichiro Suzuki isn’t batting in his customary leadoff spot and has been moved to third by second-year manager Eric Wedge. Chone Figgins is the Mariners’ leadoff man.
TV: 10:05 p.m. ET, ROOT (Seattle), Comcast SportsNet California (Oakland)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners LH Jason Vargas (0-0, 1.42 ERA) vs. Athletics RH Brandon McCarthy (0-0, 1.29 ERA)
Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego Padres (-130, 6)
After using five relievers in their season-opening win, the Dodgers hope Chad Billingsley delivers a quality outing against host San Diego. Los Angeles won the opener despite an early exit by Clayton Kershaw, who tossed three shutout innings before leaving with the stomach flu.
The Dodgers continued their dominance against San Diego after going 13-5 against the Padres last season, including 6-3 at Petco Park. The Padres committed three errors in the opener and managed just five hits, although one was a 445-foot home run by Cameron Maybin.
TV: 10:05 p.m. ET, KCAL (Los Angeles), Fox Sports San Diego
PITCHING MATCHUP: Dodgers RH Chad Billingsley (2011: 11-11, 4.21 ERA) at Padres LH Cory Luebke (2011: 6-10, 3.29 ERA)
Kansas City Royals at Los Angeles Angels (-214, 7)
The Angels unveil their big offseason signing when Albert Pujols makes his American League debut. Pujols, who signed with Los Angeles for $240 million, instantly makes the Halos a contender in the American League West – and beyond. His presence overshadows the return of Kendrys Morales, who hasn't played since breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off home run on May 29, 2010. The Royals have an unfamiliar aura of positivity around them this spring. Kansas City, which finished 2011 on a 11-5 run, is a dark horse to win the American League Central.
The Angels are hoping to get a better season from Vernon Wells, who hit just .218 in his first year in Los Angeles. Sophomore stud Mark Trumbo adds to that depth and is moving from first to third base. The Royals would love to play spoiler to L.A.’s big night. Kansas City is hoping Alex Gordon can make good on his new extension and pick up on his .303 average and 87 RBIs from last season.
TV: 10:05 p.m. ET, FSKC (Kansas City)/FS-W, FSW-ESP (Los Angeles)/ESPN2
PITCHING MATCHUP: Royals LH Bruce Chen (2011: 12-8, 3.77 ERA) vs. Angels RH Jered Weaver (2011: 18-8, 2.41 ERA)