Come Friday, the wait will finally end for the 11 remaining teams yet to officially begin play in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. For the first time in 2014, all 30 big league clubs will be in action Friday on a day filled with players making team debuts, staff aces taking the hill and some of last year's top award-winners hitting the field for the first time.
Max Scherzer, the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, will make his spring debut when a Tigers split squad hosts the Yankees at 1:05 p.m. ET in Lakeland, Fla. Scherzer will take on a Yankees lineup that is expected to feature All-Star newcomers Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury, who each rested Thursday after making their Yankee debuts Wednesday. The game can be heard live on Gameday Audio.
Another one of the game's top pitchers will toe the rubber for the first time this spring when Marlins ace -- and 2013 National League Rookie of the Year -- Jose Fernandez takes on the NL champion Cardinals in Jupiter, Fla., as both teams open their Spring Training schedules. Fernandez's first start since being shut down on Sept. 11 last season can be seen live on MLB.TV.
"I don't really want to change much from what happened last year," said Fernandez, who will be pitching for the first time to new Marlins catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "The game will tell you what you have to do. We'll figure it out and see where I am [Friday]. So far, I'm feeling well, throwing the ball well. We'll see."
As for the defending AL Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers is expected to also make his spring debut when the Rays open their Grapefruit League schedule against the Orioles. Erik Bedard is expected to start for Tampa Bay against his former team, while potential Opening Day starter Chris Tillman gets the call for Baltimore in a game that can be heard live on Gameday Audio.
"Yeah, it's going to be nice to finally get out there and not have an L screen in front of the pitcher [or] have a cage over my head while I'm hitting against live BP," Myers said. "Just get back on the field and compete against another team. I'm just excited about getting going again and starting the new year."
While Fernandez and Myers look to build off their impressive rookie seasons, Mike Trout -- possibly the game's most exciting player and a former Rookie of the Year himself -- also will be in action as the Angels open Cactus League play against the Cubs at 3:05 p.m. ET in Tempe, Ariz. Ace Jered Weaver will start for the Angels, as will most of their everyday players, including slugger Albert Pujols, in a game that can be seen live on MLB.TV.
Viewers also have the option earlier in the day of watching Curtis Granderson's Mets debut against the Nationals at 1:10 p.m. ET. Nats phenom Bryce Harper is not expected to be in the lineup, but outfielder Nate McLouth will hit leadoff in his Nationals debut and be followed in the middle of the order by regulars Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond.
Three other games will be available Friday on MLB.TV, including the Tigers' other split squad traveling to Clearwater, Fla., to take on the Phillies, and the Blue Jays hosting the Pirates, both starting at 1:05 p.m. ET. The White Sox and Dodgers will round out the day's MLB.TV slate, as Chicago opens its exhibition schedule at 3:05 ET in Glendale, Ariz.
A number of other debuts are scheduled for Friday, whether it be players making their first appearance with a new team or returning players seeing their first action of the spring.
Giants All-Star catcher Buster Posey will make his Cactus League debut against the Brewers after sitting out Wednesday's opener against the Athletics. San Francisco's Opening Day starter, Madison Bumgarner, will take the hill for his first spring start, as well.
Elsewhere on the mound, reliever John Axford is penciled in to make his Indians debut as he battles for the Tribe's closer role. Royals ace James Shields will make his first start as Kansas City faces right-hander Alexi Ogando and the Rangers.
Corey Hart will make his first start with the Mariners, against the Padres, after missing all of last year due to two knee surgeries. Astros newcomer Dexter Fowler is expected to start against the Braves. Both games can be heard on Gameday Audio.