Opening Day 2008 is upon us…
Today is Opening Day for the Atlanta Braves, and with that comes the renewed hopes of a 2008 season that will culminate in a World Series championship. The roster is set, the spring is now behind them and a new season and a brand new park await them in Washington D.C.
While the scheduling is a bit odd, it probably beats a trip to Japan in terms of jet-lag or other associated travel weariness. Surely, the Braves do not mind heading to Washington and help the Nationals open up the park by handing them their first loss.
Neither the Braves nor the hometown Nationals will be particularly familiar with how the park plays. Caroms off the wall and out of the corners, the speed of the turf on the infield and even how the ball flies will all be on display for the first time. Bobby Cox even mentioned the possibility of scheduling a morning practice to give the Atlanta fielders an opportunity to learn the in’s-and-out’s of Nationals Park.
On the mound, Tim Hudson gets the call for Atlanta. Hudson put together a quality 2007 season and followed it up with a fantastic spring in Grapefruit League play. If Atlanta can count on a repeat of the success of Hudson from a season ago – a campaign in which he could have well won 20-games – then they will be one step closer to realizing the post-season dream.
I guess everyone has seen the cuts that were made yesterday in order to get the club down to 25-men who’ll start the season. Have to say that there weren’t too many surprises there. Of course, claiming swith-hitting Ruben Gotay from the Mets made it necessary to juggle the infielders. Gotay does a few things that make the Braves bench more well-rounded. He excelled in the “close and late” situations last season (.349 in 43 AB’s) and that is always valuable off the bench.
Scott Thorman cleared waivers, to no real surprise, and will be heading to Richmond to start the season. I was pleasantly surprised to see the Braves give Martin Prado a shot at serving as the back-up at first base. Really, the Braves will have Mark Teixeira out there 99.9% of the time, but should he need a reserve then Prado can answer the call. This may be a season that Prado shows his value and versatility to the Braves and the rest of the NL.
The bullpen of Soriano, Moylan, Acosta, Resop, Boyer, Bennett, Ring and Ohman looks to help ease the load with Smoltz ready to be activated for his April 6 start against the Mets. It will be Soriano’s first shot at closing for a full season and a great deal rests on his powerful right arm. Unless or until Mike Gonzalez returns around mid-season, the Braves have no other candidates who have tangible closing experience at the Major League level.
Anyone else catch the front-page news on ESPN.com’s MLB page? Here’s the script:
A return to glory — You may find this shocking, but consider yourself warned: The Atlanta Braves are back. Here’s why they’ll win their first title since 1995. Jason Stark writes a compelling article that back the Braves for a run into late October.
So, enjoy the game.
Till Next time,