Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics (+122, 7)THE STORY:
Ichiro Suzuki will return home as the Seattle Mariners open the 2012 Major League Baseball season against the American League West rival Oakland Athletics at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday morning. While Ichiro will likely receive rock star treatment, the Mariners are attempting to make some noise after reshuffling the deck with both their lineup and rotation. Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes will make his debut with the Athletics after signing a four-year, $36 million deal.TV:
6:10 a.m. ET, ROOTPITCHING MATCHUP: Mariners RH Felix Hernandez (2011: 14-14, 3.47 ERA) vs. Athletics RH Brandon McCarthy (2011: 9-9, 3.32 ERA)
The unquestioned ace on Seattle's staff, Hernandez will make his fifth career Opening Day start. The 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner spent the offseason shedding a few unwanted pounds in an effort to prepare himself for the long haul. Hernandez has traditionally fared well versus the Athletics, winning 12 of 16 career decisions while recording three complete games.
Like Hernandez, McCarthy was an easy choice as his team's Opening Day starter - so much so that manager Bob Melvin made the decision last month. After dealing with more than his fair share of injuries in his career, McCarthy remained relatively healthy in his first season with the Athletics in 2011. McCarthy has struggled versus the Mariners, going 1-3 last season and 2-5 for his career.ABOUT THE MARINERS (2011: 67-95, fourth place in AL West):
After batting leadoff throughout his career, Ichiro will hit third in the lineup in an effort to drive in runs. Venezuelan Jesus Montero, who joined righthander Hector Noesi in a deal that sent promising hurler Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees, will bat fourth followed by Justin Smoak in the revamped lineup. Ichiro isn't the only Japanese player on Seattle's roster as utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma also made the trip to Tokyo.ABOUT THE ATHLETICS (2011: 74-88, third place in AL West):
Melvin has been shuffling bodies into different positions this spring. Cespedes, who will be looked upon for his power at the plate, will play in center field as Coco Crisp begrudgingly moves to left. Brandon Allen is expected to take hold of the team's first-base job, while Eric Sogard and Josh Donaldson are vying for time at third. Speedy Jemile Weeks, who serves as the team's leadoff hitter, will have great expectations as he enters his first full season.TRENDS:
* Under is 4-0 in McCarthy's last four starts vs. Mariners.
* Mariners are 14-3 in Hernandez's last 17 starts vs. Athletics.
* Over is 4-1 in Hernandez's last five road starts vs. Athletics.
* Mariners are 4-1 in Hernandez's last five road starts vs. Athletics.
* Under is 3-1-1 in the last five meetings.
* Under is 3-1-1 in Hernandez's last five starts vs. Athletics.
* Over is 9-4-3 in the last 16 meetings in Oakland.
* Mariners are 1-5 in the last six meetings.
* Mariners are 0-4 in the last four meetings in Oakland.FINAL PITCH:
Veteran slugger Manny Ramirez will not participate in this two-game series - or the next 48 contests for that matter - as he serves his suspension for violating the league's drug policy. Barring rainouts, Ramirez is scheduled to return on May 30 - his 40th birthday.