Fresh arms: 19 clubs feature new Opening Day starters
By Mark Newman
Jon Lester is an Opening Day fixture, but when he throws the first pitch of the season for the Cubs against the Cardinals on Sunday night at Wrigley Field, it will set the tone for a new wave of Game 1 starters with their present Major League clubs.
All 30 Opening Day starters have been announced now, and 19 of those clubs have a new person filling the role -- the most since 2005. That's six more new Opening Day starters than last year, when there were the fewest such changes in a decade.
The average turnover per year was 16 from 2005-14.
This is an area where free-agent signings and trades have an especially noticeable impact. Whenever an ace goes to another team, it often equals two new Opening Day assignments because of the team he left and the team he joins. That is the case with four pitchers this year, leading to eight new starters: Gallardo (previously Brewers), Lester (previously Red Sox), Samardzija (previously Cubs) and Shields (previously Royals).
In the case of Shields, who will start opposite Clayton Kershaw on Monday at Dodger Stadium, it will mark his sixth Opening Day start. But it will be his third time doing so for a new club and his fourth time serving as a different Opening Day starter than that club featured in the previous year. Shields started the curtain-lifter for Tampa Bay in 2008-10 and '12, and for Kansas City last year.
One reason it probably feels like such a sea of change in 2015 is the marquee names who have been replaced. Justin Verlander had the longest active streak of Opening Day starts in the Majors with seven in a row for the Tigers from 2008-14, but Detroit announced that Price would get the nod Monday against Minnesota. CC Sabathia started the last six openers for the Yankees, one shy of the club record, but Tanaka will start Monday at home against Toronto.
That leaves Felix Hernandez of Seattle as the King of Opening Day with seven straight once he starts against the Angels on Monday. Jered Weaver of the Angels -- the 30th and final official announcement on Thursday night -- will be tied with Gallardo at six straight once they make their scheduled starts.
Oakland (Sonny Gray) and Pittsburgh (Francisco Liriano) will both end eight-year streaks of new Opening Day pitchers. That means the Mets and Astros will now have the longest active streak of Opening Day starter turnover at five years.
In the case of Houston, that's an especially dramatic switch because there once was an annual fixture on the hill for Opening Day -- Roy Oswalt, until 2011. Baseball is about change, though, and the Opening Day starters you're about to see will be a good example.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.