The regular season is finally here and the Indians are ready to take on the A’s in Oakland. There will be familiar faces on both sides for Indians fans as four of the six starting pitchers were in the Indians rotation in 2013. In addition to Scott Kazmir, who turned an opportunity with the Indians into big money with the A’s, Oakland will carry Drew Pomeranz in the bullpen and Coco Crisp in center field. While the A’s do have quite a few younger players that may be unknown to Eastern baseball fans, they are also the home of MVP candidate Josh Donaldson and the incredible Cuban import, Yeonis Cespedes. In addition to Kazmir, the A’s also added a new closer for 2014 in the former Oriole Jim Johnson to shore up the bullpen.
Game 1: Monday, March 31st, 10:05 PM EDT
Justin Masterson, RHP, 4-0, 1.09 ERA (All stats from Spring Training) vs Sonny Grey, RHP, 0-1, 3.48 ERA
Opening Day will be a battle of the aces, but of two very different kinds. Masterson has been the Indians ace for four seasons and all discussions about him this Spring have had to do with contracts, not whether he is worthy of the position. Grey on the other hand, is going into his first season heading the A’s rotation after starting just ten games in his rookie campaign last season. While he is obviously talented, he has no track record at the Major League level and will be looking to establish himself in the A’s home opener.
On the offensive side, this will be the first time the Indians will see a true test with their newly constructed lineup. Part of this will be seeing what this lineup will actually be. Terry Francona could use as many as hundreds of different combinations this season (he did last year), but Opening Day should be the best or most used of these. Whether that means Carlos Santana at third, first or DH, we are yet to see.
Game 2: Tuesday, April 1st, 10:05 PM EDT
Corey Kluber, RHP, 1-1, 5.60 ERA vs Scott Kazmir, LHP, 1-0, 1.62 ERA
Kluber has been a solid starter for the Indians for the past two seasons, but has never been under as much pressure as he will be here, facing off against other team’s number two starters. He, and the Indians, however, are lucky in starting against the A’s, whose number two starter was the number five starter for Cleveland just a season ago. While the Indians have had some issues with left handers in previous seasons, they turned that around in 2013 and were one of the best teams in the league against south paws. With three switch hitters (Asdrubal Cabrera, Santana and Nick Swisher) in the every day lineup and a cast of interchangeable pieces behind them that can hit from either side of the plate, that shouldn’t change at all this seasons.
Game 3: Wednesday, April 2nd, 3:35 PM EDT
Zach McAllister, RHP, 2-1, 5.75 ERA vs Jesse Chavez, RHP, 4-1, 2.74 ERA
Like Kluber, McAllister has been solid in the past few years, but unlike Kluber, he will essentially stay in the same position he has been in. Chances are in fact, that he has hit his ceiling and will be a solid #3 or #4 starter for the rest of his career. He will likely be at an advantage by facing off against other team’s number three starters and by using his ground ball style of pitching in between two hard throwing strike out pitchers (Kluber and Danny Salazar).
On the mound for the A’s, Chavez will be making his first start since 2012, but he has never been a real starter. A journeyman reliever, Chavez has pitched for five different teams at the Major League level in his six year career, but hasn’t made as many appearances as he is expected to make as a starter since 2010. The fact that Oakland is using a formerly ineffective reliever who has only 235 innings under his belt in six years as their third starter speaks a lot about their depth. Of course, Billy Beane and the A’s have been famous for making play-off teams out of undervalued players, so despite their lack of starting experience, these starters should not be looked at as push-overs.
Up Next: Off-day on Thursday 4/3, then home to face the Twins in the home opener.