HOUSTON -- The Indians believe they have the players in place to return to the October stage this season. On Friday, Cleveland's journey towards that goal will continue when the gates to Progressive Field open for the club's home opener against the Tigers.
Downtown will be buzzing, the stadium will be packed with a sold-out crowd and the ballpark's sweeping renovations will be put on display for the first time. Right-hander Zach McAllister can't help but smile when thinking about taking the mound for the first home start of the Tribe's season.
"I'm sure it'll be a playoff-type atmosphere," McAllister said. "Loud and exciting. It'll be a fun time."
McAllister is scheduled to take on Detroit's Alfredo Simon in the opener of the three-game clash of American League Central rivals. Saturday's game will feature a marquee matchup, pitting the league's reigning Cy Young Award winner, Cleveland's Corey Kluber, against lefty David Price, who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2012. Tribe lefty TJ House is slated to face Tigers lefty Kyle Lobstein on Sunday.
The gates for Friday's game will open at 2 p.m. ET in advance of the 4:10 p.m start. Prior to the game, the Indians will have Gaylord Perry -- Cleveland's first Cy Young Award winner in 1972 -- on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Each branch of the military will be honored in the pregame festivities, which will also include award-winning pianist Arianna Korting performing the national anthem.
Indians manager Terry Francona is looking forward to returning home, both to see how the day unfolds and to give his team a chance to get settled in after a long spring and season-opening road trip.
"It'll be nice," Francona said. "One, it'll be nice to get home, because the home opener is always fun. But it will also be nice to get into a routine. Let everybody unpack, get in their own bed and start a routine. The first week is pretty disjointed between days off and leaving Spring Training. You'd like to get in that routine."
Taking on the Tigers out of the chute will give Cleveland an early test, too.
"They're a great lineup," McAllister said. "From top to bottom, they have power, they have speed. They can cause havoc when they get on base. For pitchers, it's a tough lineup, but it's a fun one to be able to pitch to as well, because you know you've got to be on your game to be successful."
Francona and the players are also interested in seeing the changes made to the ballpark.
The Indians drastically changed the Gate C and right field areas, adding a variety of local-based concessions options and opening up the center-field entrance to provide a new wide-open view in and out of the ballpark. The Tribe added a two-story bar called "The Corner," upgraded the Kids Clubhouse to two levels with new activities, moved the bullpens, added unique seating and built tiered sections in the upper deck to accommodate large groups.
The Indians are expecting a memorable day.
"It's exciting," McAllister said. "I was thrilled when they said I was going to be able to [start the home opener]. It's a great honor and I'm looking forward to it."