Finally, it is here! Opening Day versus the rival Cardinals at PNC Park. It’s been a long journey keeping up with the team since pitchers and catchers reported, and now our patience has turned into 100% meaningful baseball. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 PM and it’s going to be a cold one. Game time temperature looks set at 40º with partly cloudy skies. Make sure to bring lots of warm clothes.
Throwing out the very first pitch of the 2016 season will be Francisco Liriano. Frankie pitched 13 innings of spring ball to a tune of a 6.08 ERA. Though, let’s repeat after me, “Spring Training stats don’t matter!” With that said, Liriano has been a great success story with the help of the Pirates and Ray Searage. In those three seasons with the Pirates, Frankie has averaged a 3.26 ERA in 510 innings, while striking out 543. Those are certainly ace quality numbers, and because of that he will be getting the Opening Day nod.
If you haven’t been following the NSN or much of the spring training news, then you may be baffled by the lineup today. Clint Hurdle has fed into the sabermetrics world and has decided to bat Andrew McCutchen second in the lineup. Due to his extreme high on base skills, this will give the Pirates more chances to drive him in, or at least that is the thought process at this time. John Jaso is set to lead off vs righties, and those two should set the tone for the lineup. McCutchen is nothing short from being ready for the season to begin. In his 44 at bats this spring, he has batted .295 with six homer runs. Josh Harrison actually lead the Cactus League in doubles with seven, and also added two triples to his stat line.
Today, the Cardinals will put their ace on the mound who is very familiar with Pittsburgh. Adam Wainwright, who is now in his 11th year as a Red Bird, is coming off of a horrific Achilles tendon tear that forced him to miss all but seven games last year. He rebounded quickly and surprised many as he pitched in the bullpen during the playoffs. Now that he appears to be fully recovered from the injury, there is no reason to think he is still one of today’s better pitchers in the game. In his 15 innings of spring, he recorded a 4.80 ERA while most of that came from one bad outing. For Wainwright career, he has posted a 2.98 ERA, but has not had much success against the Buccos. When playing against the Pirates, Wainwright’s ERA is a 4.29.
The Cardinals come into town with quite a bit of injury woes as well. It was well documented this offseason about Yadier Molina’s pesky thumb that required him to get surgery twice. Now backup catcher, Brayan Pena, has been sent to the DL in need of knee surgery. Shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, is also out for an extended period of time, while Matt Holliday is an injury concern waiting to happen at 36 years of age. I would say these are all good signs for Pittsburgh, but we have all seen this story before. St. Louis handles adversity like no other team in sports. They are truly the example of when a man is down, another needs to step up without missing a beat. Last year, we saw Randall Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty make their MLB debut because of injuries. Both players excelled and are now poised to pick up and carry over that success into this years starting lineup.
Today, the Pirates finally announced who made the Opening Day roster. There really was not any surprises, though many could say Jason Rogers played well enough to make the team. It was announced that the final bench spots would be held by Mike Morse, Sean Rodriguez, Cole Figueroa, Matt Joyce, and Chris Stewart. For the final two spots in the bullpen, Corey Luebke and Kyle Lobstein were awarded the position. In corresponding moves, the Pirates announced that they have designated John Holdzkom, Pedro Florimon, and Jake Goebbert. These three will have to pass through waivers in order for the Pirates to retain them and place them in the minors if they select to do so.
- Jaso 1B
- McCutchen CF
- Freese 3B
- Marte LF
- Cervelli C
- Polanco RF
- Harrison 2B
- Mercer SS
- Liriano P