After a brutal winter of arctic blasts and blustery snowstorms for much of the nation, baseball is ready to heat up Monday with its first full schedule of games this season.
Slugger David Ortiz and the World Series champion Boston Red Sox begin their title defense in Baltimore against home-run king Chris Davis and the American League East rival Orioles.
Behind the scenes, umpires at all six replay stations in New York will be at the ready for the first time in baseball history.
“We recognize fully that last year is behind us, and everyone is looking forward to (Monday) and beyond,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
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The start of shortstop Derek Jeter’s retirement tour will wait one more day. The New York Yankees, with 39-year-old captain Jeter a part of baseball’s oldest roster, will face the youngest on Tuesday night in Houston.
By the time Detroit’s Justin Verlander throws a pitch at 1:08 p.m. EDT in one of 13 games Monday, the Los Angeles Dodgers will already have played openers on two continents and put $215 million ace Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list.
Los Angeles swept a pair Down Under from the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 22, with Kershaw winning the first regular-season major-league game in Australia before an upper-back muscle acted up.
Sunny skies and seasonably warm temperatures are expected to provide a wonderful backdrop at most parks.
“Should be a pretty good day for a ballgame,” said Richard Bann, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center.
In Texas, Tanner Scheppers, a converted setup man, will be the first pitcher to make his first major-league start in a season opener since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 for the Dodgers. Scheppers will have new slugger Prince Fielder at first base when the Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies in an interleague game.
Scheppers got the nod because major-league strikeout leader Yu Darvish is on the disabled list with a sore neck.
Atlanta’s Kris Medlen, Oakland’s Jarrod Parker and Arizona’s Patrick Corbin are out, too. While Darvish might miss a mere one start, Medlen, Parker and Corbin are out for the season after having Tommy John surgery.
Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman is sidelined for at least another month after being hit in the forehead by a line drive during spring training.
Cincinnati, which opens against NL Central rival St. Louis, has eight players on the disabled list — a major-league high heading into the season. Texas has seven.
Boston starts with a demanding test, as Baltimore was the only team in the AL East with a winning record (11-8) against the Red Sox last season.
“This is a very good team,” Farrell said of the Orioles. “We’ve had a chance to see their regular lineup in spring training, and it’s deep and powerful. Just another example of how difficult this division can be.”
• Boston right fielder Shane Victorino strained his right hamstring in an exhibition game Saturday and his status for the opener is in question.
• Toronto has placed closer Casey Janssen on the 15-day disabled list because of a strain in his left abdominal area and lower back.
Janssen, 4-1 with 34 saves and a 2.56 earned-run average last season, was limited at spring training because of shoulder soreness.