The Texas Rangers aren’t wasting any time in seeing what they have in Jacob deGrom.
The ace right-hander, who signed a five-year, $185 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason, will face Philadelphia’s Aaron Nola when the 2023 Major League Baseball season opens Thursday.
All 30 clubs will be in action that day for the first time since 1968.
This will be deGrom’s fourth career opening day start. The two-time Cy Young winner got the nod from 2019-21 while pitching for the New York Mets. Texas has been cautious with deGrom during spring training after the 34-year-old reported tightness in his left side right before team workouts began in February.
His work over the last month has been solid enough that the Rangers did not hesitate in making deGrom the seventh different pitcher to get the ball on opening day for the team in the last seven years.
“Early, we had to hold him back a little bit, but we think he’s good to go,” new Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have the day off after opening day, so we can cover him. We’re not looking for him to take us real deep in the game or anything. So this just makes all of the sense in the world to us.”
Nola, by contrast, has been a fixture for the Phillies. The 29-year-old will make his sixth opening day start for Philadelphia. Only Hall of Famers Robin Roberts (12) and Steve Carlton (10) have started more season openers in Phillies’ history.
The youngest opening-day starter will be Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene. The hard-throwing 23-year-old will match up with Mitch Keller and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Greene struck out 164 hitters in 125 2/3 innings as a rookie last season. Greene also pitched 7 1/3 no-hit innings against the Pirates last April, only to take the loss.
Eight Cy Young winners in all will take the mound on March 30, including Corey Kluber, who will make his first start for Boston when the Red Sox face Baltimore. Kluber is the first newcomer to start Boston’s first game since David Price in 2016.
Miami’s Sandy Alcantara will the first Marlins pitcher to start four straight openers when he takes on three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and the New York Mets. Alcantara, a unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young in 2022, will break a tie with Josh Beckett (2003-05) and Josh Johnson (2010-12) for most opening-day starts in club history. Scherzer is one of five pitchers since 1900 to record 10 or more strikeouts on opening day at least three times in their career.
This is the second time in as many years that Cy Young winners will face each other on opening day. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Kansas City’s Zack Greinke met last spring.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani, fresh off leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic title, will make his second straight opening day start for Los Angeles. Ohtani set career-highs last year in wins (15), ERA (2.33), strikeouts (216) and innings pitched (166). Ohtani and the Angels begin the season against Oakland left-hander Kyle Muller, who will be making his first opening-day start.
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will join C.C. Sabathia, Jack Chesbro and Mel Stottlemyre as the only pitchers in team history to start four straight opening days when the Yankees host the San Francisco Giants. He’ll oppose Logan Webb, who ranked in the top-10 in ERA (2.90), wins (15) and innings pitched (192 1/3) last season.
Framber Valdez will start for World Series champion Houston when the Astros host the Chicago White Sox.
Washington’s Patrick Corbin is hopeful that getting the start on opening day will lead to a better season than the ones he endured in 2021 and 2022. Corbin led the majors in losses each of the past two seasons, going 9-16 with a 5.82 ERA in 2021, then 6-19 with a 6.31 ERA last year. But with Stephen Strasburg still sidelined by injury and top prospect Cade Cavalli out for the year following Tommy John surgery, the Nationals are turning to one of the few pieces remaining from the team that won the 2019 World Series.