Rest of MLB runs home for openers this week
Fourteen clubs, including last three champs, play to home crowds
Pete Rose once said of Opening Day, "It's like Christmas, except it's warmer."
By that logic, fans in 14 big league cities should be filled with holiday cheer this week, as home openers are scheduled from Los Angeles to Boston and places in between.
Sure, the season began nearly two weeks ago when the Mariners and A's played two in Tokyo. And, yes, all 30 teams played games that count last week.
Yet, for those 14 cities, this week is the one with an Opening Day all their own and with it all the optimism and excitement that comes with Game No. 1 at the home park. The Twins, Phillies, Rockies and Blue Jays begin their home slates on Monday.
In Philadelphia, Cole Hamels gets the ball against the Marlins in a matchup of teams looking to get over rough opening weekends. For Hamels, who has spent his entire big league career with Philadelphia, there is a chance it could be his last Phillies home opener given his impending free agency at season's end.
"That's why I have an agent," Hamels said when he was asked about his contract status after his last Spring Training start. "I need to go out and pitch."
When Minnesota's Target Field was first unveiled, there wasn't much to gripe about, save the concern that an open-air stadium in Minnesota would bring with it weather conflicts. The expected forecast of sunny and 49 degrees for the Twins' 3 p.m. CT home opener against the Angels isn't ideal baseball weather, but Minnesotans will take it. Of course, the Twins fans in attendance would probably feel a lot warmer if they saw their club notch its first victory after an 0-3 start.
With a couple wins at Rogers Centre this week, Toronto could certainly send a message to one of its AL East foes, the Red Sox. The Blue Jays got off to a hot start, taking two of three in Cleveland -- technically they are the team the winless Sox are chasing for the new second Wild Card spot.
As for the Rockies' faithful, they won't get a look at two of their new pitchers -- Jeremy Guthrie and 49-year-old Jamie Moyer -- until the last two games of their series against the Giants. Righty Jhoulys Chacin gets the ball in the Coors Field opener.
"It's an honor for me," Chacin said. "But I'm not going to put any pressure on myself or do anything different. I just want to give the team seven, eight or nine innings, just do my job."
On Tuesday, Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw will face the Pirates, returning to the mound that helped him win the National League Cy Young Award last year. His home splits during his dominant 2011 campaign were downright scary, as he posted a 12-1 mark, 1.69 ERA and a WHIP just below 0.90 at Dodger Stadium.
The nine remaining cities will have to wait until later in the week for their home openers. The Nationals will open their home schedule on Thursday against the Reds with a sense of hope stemming from the amount of young talent that hasn't previously existed at Nationals Park.
A few of the big guns will take their home fields on Friday, as the last three World Series champs will all sit in the home dugout for the first time.
The last time the Cardinals played a regular season game at Busch Stadium, they were scraping and clawing their way into the playoff race. On Friday they'll open their 2012 Busch Stadium slate as defending World Series champions, hoisting a World Series banner and hosting the arch-rival Cubs with Adam Wainwright making his second start coming back from Tommy John surgery.
Matt Cain and his shiny new six-year contract open AT&T Park's schedule when the Pirates come to town. Three thousand miles to the east, Hiroki Kuroda makes his first start wearing pinstripes when the Yankees host the Angels in a showdown of two early AL favorites.
Coming off colossal September collapses, the Red Sox and Braves return home for their openers Friday. In the first game of Fenway Park's 100th-anniversary season, the Red Sox host the team that took advantage of their September swoon, the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, the Braves will finally get the series they anticipated against Milwaukee -- the club they would have faced in the playoffs -- only it comes about six months later than they had hoped.
The White Sox will face the Tigers, the Royals will take on the Indians and the Mariners will play host to Oakland, wrapping up the slate of home openers.
That means by week's end, fans will have root, root, rooted for all 30 teams during the seventh-inning stretch and 30 teams in their home colors will have run onto the field to their first ovations of 2012.
Twelve days after the first games of 2012, the holiday season remains in full swing.
AJ Cassavell is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.