Friday marks the day we’ve been waiting weeks for and now it’s finally upon us. This past week and a half, seeing scattered photos of practices and trying to get the scoop out of spring training workouts, has been a huge tease. The ball players will strap up their shoelaces, throw their game jersey on and perform in front of a crowd at Champion Stadium in Kissimmee Florida.
The Atlanta Braves will take on the Detroit Tigers in the opening game of Spring Training. The Tigers, even though had a worse record than the Braves (88-74), won the ALCS in 2012 but eventually would lose in the World Series to San Francisco. Superstar pitcher Justin Verlander is the ace of Detroit’s staff but for the opening day of Spring Training, Verlander will not be the Tigers starter.
Instead, Detroit will go with Rick Porcello to be on top of the mound in the first inning of Friday’s game. The Tigers coach, Jim Leyland, publicly addressed this situation proclaiming he was going to keep an eye on the workload of his starting pitchers because of the lengthy playoff run they had. Leyland said, “You have to be careful, you want them to be prepared but at the same time you want to make sure they aren’t doing too much. You’ve got to watch them.”
Ok, that’s fine, I’m sure the Braves aren’t too upset they won’t see Verlander on opening day. But let’s look into Porcello’s career a little to see who the Braves will be seeing come Friday.
Porcello just turned 24 years old in December and already has four full seasons at the MLB level on his belt. All four years he has reached the double digits in wins and has 48 for his career. He has been very durable for the Tigers starting 31 games in three of the four seasons and 27 in the other (2010). He doesn’t walk that many, career 2.3/9, nor does he strikeout that many hitters, 5.0/9 career, but for some reason he gives up a heap load of hits. Each season since his rookie year he has exceeded his hits giving up total. His ERA has been above 4.50 during his last three seasons, only his rookie year did Porcello have a sub 4.00 ERA (3.96). He will probably in time become the Tigers 5th starting pitcher for the regular season or he may be beaten out by Drew Smyly.
The Atlanta Braves will place Tim Hudson on the mound for the opening day festivities. He will likely go out to the mound, throw to three batters and be finished for the day. It is yet to be known whom Fredi Gonzalez will choose for the starting pitcher for the regular season opener. We probably will not know for at least a few more days. The way the rotation is set up for Spring Training (Hudson, Paul Maholm, Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor), Gonzalez can go either way because of two off days in March. Fredi can either give normal rest to his starters or give them an extra day off. Opening day starter is TBD.
Both these starters will only pitch one or maybe two innings on Friday but it’s something to look forward to seeing after all the cold months.