There are still games going on and games to come, so the following only includes games that have been completed.
- Brewers 4-Cubs 3:
I’m not going to get into a twist about Kerry Wood giving up three runs in his first turn as the Cubs closer. His adrenaline was probably off the charts, as were his nerves. Two things that would concern me about Wood though is how much patience manager Lou Piniella is going to have with him if he struggles coming out of the gate. It would be just like Piniella to use Wood as the closer three or four times, see him perform shakily and explode about how Wood can’t close. Also, if he’s going to be pumped up to the point of having it affect his performance, Wood might overdo it in the cool weather of the early season and hurt himself. He’s not exactly an ironman to begin with and the last thing he needs is to try too hard.
Kosuke Fukudome’s struggles in the spring and the panic that must have been going through the minds of the Wrigley faithful was assuaged with that game tying homer. Apparently Eric Gagne is picking up right where he left off with the Red Sox and that’s bad news for the Brewers. Ben Sheets was dominant, but it’s never been stuff that’s the issue with Sheets, it’s keeping him out on the mound for 30+ starts. His history says that he’s not going to stay healthy. One thing that may motivate Sheets to stay healthy is his upcoming free agency, so that might benefit the Brewers this season in terms of getting a full year from Sheets, but he’s also never been a Carl Pavano-type who looks like he’s looking to sit on the sidelines and collect a paycheck; time will tell, but I’ll be very surprised if Sheets suddenly stays healthy for a full season.
- Diamondbacks 4-Reds 2:
The Diamondbacks already know what they have in Brandon Webb. He’s a guy that is very difficult to hit and is going to pitch deep into games throw strikes. What they’re going to learn is how truly valuable Chad Qualls is out of the bullpen. Qualls was a key reason the Astros were able to win so consistently in the Clemens/Pettitte/Oswalt years. A guy like Qualls who can be counted on to pitch in 80 games a year, throw strikes and do his job is invaluable.
- Royals 5-Tigers 4:
I like the way the Royals are conducting themselves under new manager Trey Hillman and Alex Gordon’s rough rookie year is going to benefit him this year as he begins to come into his own in 2008. One of Tigers reliever Denny Bautista’s fastballs was clocked at 101 mph. Whether or not that’s accurate, I don’t know, but that’s something for a 27-year-old journeyman who’s never had much success.
- Nationals 11-Phillies 6:
The Nationals don’t have the horses to keep this up, but the way Manny Acta has that team playing bodes well for the future. (And Acta really knows how to handle his bullpen.) I think Lastings Milledge looks way more at home with the Nats than he did for the Mets and is going to do very, very well.
- Dodgers 5-Giants 0:
Peter Magowan and Brian Sabean must be watching Barry Zito and have a bucket nearby in case they feel the need to get sick. His mechanics are off; his fastball is puttering in at a steady 84; his curve is not biting. It’s one thing to have Jamie Moyer/Tom Glavine velocity if you’re getting their results (and at their salaries); but when Zito is looking as bad as he did, he’s going to have to reinvent himself on the fly. The Giants are not going to contend, so Zito’s going to have time to get straightened out, but after his terrible spring training and today’s one strikeout in five innings performance, there has to be wary looks between Magowan and Sabean wondering if this is what they’re going to get out of Zito along with the inevitable decline as he ages. It’s frightening to an outsider, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to the guy that’s signing the checks. It’s odd how as a youth, Zito received pitching lessons from former Padres junkballer Randy Jones, and now he’s pitching like vintage Randy Jones, except he’s not winning. There’s a blaaah factor about the Giants. No personality; nothing much to pay attention to. That Keiichi Yabu looked pretty good. That’s a positive.
- Indians 10-White Sox 8:
Ozzie Guillen either had no choice but to find someone other than Nick Swisher to play center field, or he’s throwing things against the wall to see if they stick, because that Cuban defector Alexei Ramirez is a hacker with a capital H; and who knows if he can even play center field every day? On the bright side for the White Sox, Jim Thome is going to be in heavy demand and they’ll be able to command a ransom for him if they fall out of the race and decide to trade him; and Nick Masset looked great.
- Mets 7-Marlins 2:
Johan Santana did exactly what the Mets wanted from him in his first start and it looked like a lot of those pitches that were around the bottom of the strike zone could easily have been called strikes. One thing that concerns me is manager Willie Randolph’s use of the bullpen. Yes. Already.
Here’s something that I don’t think is taken into as heavy account as it should be. Matt Wise relieved Santana in the eighth inning and allowed a couple of baserunners, looking like he was struggling with his control. Randolph had Joe Smith loosening earlier in the game and while Wise was pitching, Scott Schoeneweis and Jorge Sosa were warming up. It’s opening day and he’s managing like it’s the seventh game of the World Series. If a pitcher is used in 70 games (as a random number), you have to figure he’s going to be warming up in at least 20-30 other games that he never enters. Warming up and getting mentally prepared to come into a game with runners on base is mentally taxing; it’s cumulative and stressful. All of this get up-sit down-get up-sit down-is he ready-we don’t need him now, is exhausting. It’s opening day and Randolph’s starting down the road to exhausting his bullpen again which was one of the main reasons for the Mets downfall last season.