Who will be on the mound in the A.L. Central on Opening Day? Since we are just a day away from the Major League season being in earnest, let’s take a look.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox turn to their ace Chris Sale on March 31st to get the 2014 season underway on the South Side. The Sox begin their season against the Minnesota Twins at US Cellular Field. Sale, who is continuing to prove to be Chicago’s go to arm in the rotation, is looking to continue build on as being the ace of the Chicago rotation. The White Sox will be building with hopes that they can avoid a season like they experienced in 2013. Even with an 11-14 record, Sale proved to be one of the more dominant pitchers within the division and the American League overall. Case in point being his humiliation of Carlos Gonzalez at the All-Star Game last season.
This will also be Sale’s second time opening the season on the mound for the Sox. Currently he is 1-0 on Opening Day as a starter. He is filling the shoes of former White Sox pitcher and Opening Day starter Mark Buehrle nicely and in 2014 will look to continue progress for himself and his club.
Looking to build off their success of 2013, the Indians will turn to their number one, Justin Masterson. The Indians will open their season at O.co Coliseum in Oakland where they meet the Oakland Athletics. The Indians are also looking to Masterson to be the pitcher to anchor the rotation for this season and for the foreseeable future.
He will be making his third Opening Day start in his career for the Tribe. Currently, he is 1-0 on Opening Day, but has a no decision as well. 2013 was his coming out party as it proved that he can be the arm that the Indians needed down the stretch. In 2013, Masterson was an an All-Star and finished the regular season with a record of 14-11 with an ERA of 3.45, showing signs of improvement from his 2012 season. Masterson will look to put the Indians in the right direction with his first start this season.
Justin Verlander, will be making his seventh career Opening Day start on March 31st. The Tigers play host to the Kansas City Royals for an afternoon game at Comerica Park in Detroit. Verlander, who is entering his tenth season for the Tigers, will be looking to begin his 2014 with command and control, especially after coming off an interesting 2013.
Last season, he finished the year with a record of 13-12, with an ERA of 3.46. Despite at times showing signs of his typical dominant form, it looked as if he was a downward trend. After several seasons of being on the up trend and continuously progressing as a pitcher, his 2013 looked strange.
In the playoffs, reports of the demise of Justin Verlander were soon forgotten as he proved once again to be the ace pitcher that he is and can be. Now with the start of this season, he will look to once again make progress as a pitcher and be the ace of the staff of a talented Tigers rotation.
On Opening Days, Verlander has a record of 3-4 in his seven starts on the first game of the season. The Tigers will be looking to start the season on the right foot and look to one Justin Verlander to begin the 2014 season.
Kansas City Royals
Opposite of Justin Verlander on Opening Day for the Kansas City Royals will be James Shields. The Royals are looking at 2014 with the prospect of greater success following their above .500 finish last season . Shields will be making his second Opening Day start for the Royals and is 0-1 as a starter on Opening Day.
Shields will also once again look to play a prominent role for the Royals this season as he did last season when he went 13-9 with an ERA of 3.15. He is the starting point for a Royals rotation that is mixed with talent and up ‘n’ comers, notably Yordano Ventura. A big game for the pitcher that they call “Big Game James.” Certainly he is the right choice to kick start a season of potential success in Kansas City.
The Twins will turn to Ricky Nolasco for their game against the Chicago White Sox. Nolasco, who in the off season signed a four year deal with the Twins, will be making his third career Opening Day start. The last two times that he pitched on the first day of the season was when he was a member of the Miami Marlins. Currently, he is 1-1 on Opening Day starts.
In 2013, Nolasco pitched for both the Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom he was traded to midway through the season. He finished the season with a combined record of 13-11 and a combined ERA of 3.70. Nolasco is joining a Twins rotation and team that is at the crossroads of beginning a rebuilding process that will slowly begin throughout this season.
For the time being, Nolasco will do his part to keep the Twins afloat this season as their number one starter. It may be a long season in Minnesota this year, but there will be successes through the course of the year. On Opening Day, the Twins can start the season off on the right foot.