Peek at the Week: Play ball!
It's aces high as the 2008 season gets under way
Boston and Oakland got the 2008 regular season started in Japan. Atlanta and Washington started the National League season on Sunday night with the inaugural game in the Nationals' new ballpark.
At last, it is time for everybody else to get started, and what a week it will be starting on Monday.
How about these for starters?
Ben Sheets and the Brewers in Chicago to take on Carlos Zambrano and the Cubs.
National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy vs. Houston ace Roy Oswalt at PETCO Park.
American League Cy Young Award winner C.C. Sabathia vs. Mark Buerhle of the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field.
Toronto's Roy Halladay against New York's Chien-Ming Wang and Arizona's Brandon Webb vs. Cincinnati's Aaron Harang.
You could watch Kansas City ace Gil Meche against Detroit's Justin Verlander, San Francisco's Barry Zito squaring off against Brad Penny of the Dodgers, Johan Santana making his New York Mets debut against Florida, Tom Glavine's return to Atlanta or Colorado ace Jeff Francis against St. Louis' rising star Adam Wainwright.
And that's just what's on tap for Monday.
The rest of the week should be just as riveting, with an NLCS rematch between the Diamondbacks and Rockies at Coors Field, the Mets and Braves in an NL East clash at Turner Field and the Rays and Yankees getting together for the first of several meetings this season. And judging from the clashes the Yankees and Rays had in Florida during Spring Training, things could be heating up early in this AL East series.
Here's the rundown ...
Brewers at Cubs, Monday-Thursday: Two teams picked by many to battle it out for the NL Central crown kick things off with a three-game set at Wrigley Field. Kosuke Fukodome, Chicago's new $48 million right fielder, makes his debut against Sheets while reigning NL home run champ Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and the rest of the Brew Crew step into the box against Zambrano. After an off-day on Tuesday, the two teams finish the three-game set with day games on Wednesday and Thursday.
White Sox at Indians, Monday-Thursday: The Tigers received more attention this spring, but don't overlook the White Sox and Indians. Sabathia, 14-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 23 career starts against the White Sox, faces Buerhle in the first of 18 meetings between the two AL Central rivals this season.
Blue Jays at Yankees, Monday-Thursday: Let the countdown officially begin. Wang makes his first Opening Day start in the last Opening Day at Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium's days may be numbered, but another era is beginning. For the first time since 1995, Joe Torre is not on the bench as Yankees manager as Joe Girardi takes over as New York's skipper.
Red Sox at Athletics, Tuesday-Wednesday: When last we saw these two teams, they were tangling in the Far East. The second half of the four-game set takes place out West, with Daisuke Matsuzaka matched up against Oakland's Joe Blanton. In Game 2 on Wednesday, Boston's Jon Lester faces Oakland's Rich Harden, who beat the Red Sox last week at Tokyo Dome.
Rangers at Mariners, Monday-Thursday: Erik Bedard makes his Seattle debut against Kevin Millwood and the Rangers in Monday night's season opener at Safeco Field.
Red Sox at Blue Jays, Friday-Sunday: If the Blue Jays are going to be the surprise team some are predicting, this is a week to show it, as Toronto faces AL East powers New York and Boston a combined six times.
The Jays will be without third baseman Scott Rolen and closer B.J. Ryan, both of whom are on the disabled list, and a good week against the East heavyweights without those two could bode well for Toronto.
Dodgers at Padres, Friday-Sunday: What is always a competitive rivalry, regardless of where the two teams are in the standings, should be even more special as Hiroki Kuroda is expected to make his season debut and Torre brings a very good Dodgers team to Petco Park for an NL West shootout.
Diamondbacks at Rockies, Friday-Sunday: The last time these two teams tangled, a National League pennant was at stake. The two NL West powers meet again at Coors Field, this time with new faces like Arizona's Dan Haren adding to the spectacle.
White Sox at Tigers, Friday-Sunday: Dontrelle Willis, the veteran lefty acquired from Florida during the offseason along with third baseman Miguel Cabrera, makes his Tigers debut on Saturday at Comerica Park. Verlander is expected to pitch the series finale on Sunday, most likely opposite Buerhle.
Mets at Braves, Friday-Sunday: Because of the way the Mets faded last September, one theory holds that it is very important for New York to have a strong start this year. It's certainly an idea worthy of debate, but another bit of conventional wisdom isn't -- any path to the NL East crown must not only go through Philadelphia, but also Atlanta.
The Mets head to Atlanta for their first big test of the season against Mark Teixeira, Chipper Jones and friends. An added benefit: If the pitchings pairings hold as expected, Santana would face former Met Glavine on Saturday.
Rays at Yankees, Friday-Sunday: The "hard slides and hard feelings" series resumes in the Bronx. Or maybe not. But if benches emptied during a Spring Training game between these two teams, what level of emotion can we expect in games that actually count?
Milestone of the week: Alex Rodriguez needs three home runs to tie Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Ted Williams for 15th place on the all-time home run list. The 31-year-old Yankees third baseman has 518 career homers.
Factoid of the week: According to STATS, Inc., Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder not only led the National League in home runs (50) and slugging (.618) last season, he also begins this season with the longest active streak of consecutive games reaching base via hit, walk or hit-by-pitch. Fielder reached base in his final 33 games of 2007. Following Fielder with the longest active streaks are Todd Helton of the Rockies (32), Oakland's Jack Cust (26) and two members of the Mets, David Wright (23) and Carlos Delgado (22).
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.