Welcome to MLB Opening Day 2023!
After one of the most exciting preludes to a regular season in recent memory — from offseason chaos to players (and fans) learning baseball’s new rules and enjoying faster-paced games to an epic World Baseball Classic — it’s time to play ball.
What are we looking for as the season gets started? Our reporters give their pregame takes from the ballpark, plus we’ll post lineups as they are announced and live updates throughout the day, including takeaways from each game as it concludes.
The pitching matchup: Max Fried vs. Patrick Corbin
The big storyline: The Braves have World Series aspirations, but perhaps no contending team will have a more surprising Opening Day — or opening week — look than them. After Dansby Swanson left in free agency, Vaughn Grissom was expected to take over as shortstop; instead, it will be veteran Orlando Arcia, with Grissom beginning the season in Triple-A.
The biggest shock comes in the rotation, however. With 21-game winner Kyle Wright still building up after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder in January, rookies Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd both made the initial rotation, alongside Opening Day starter Fried, Spencer Strider and Charlie Morton. No Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder or Mike Soroka. The kicker: A farm system that ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel ranked last in the majors will be expected to contribute right out of the gate.
One obscure thing to impress your friends: Corbin starts for the Nationals — after leading the NL with 19 losses in 2022. The last Opening Day starter to draw the assignment after leading his league in losses: Corbin, last season. Before that: Matthew Boyd of the Tigers in 2021. And Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins did it in 2020, so it’s not all that unusual, although Corbin’s 6.31 ERA is certainly among the worst ever from the previous season for an Opening Day starter. — David Schoenfield
The big storyline: All eyes will be on Volpe. “I don’t know [how] to put into words how I expect to feel,” said the rookie, who grew up a die-hard Yankees fan, like his new teammates, Harrison Bader and Cole. It goes without saying that it will be an emotional moment when he puts on the pinstripes and hears Yankee Stadium public address announcer Paul Olden say his name during the pregame ceremonies. Volpe’s promotion is perhaps the only storyline that could have trumped Aaron Judge’s return to the South Bronx as the highest-paid player in franchise history and its first captain since Jeter. It comes on the heels of Judge breaking Roger Maris’ 61-year-old American League home run record and winning league MVP honors. And there is also this: As part of the new competitively balanced schedule, the Yankees will open the season against one of Judge’s most aggressive offseason pursuers, his childhood team, the San Francisco Giants. Maybe Judge put it best when talking about the Yankees’ Opening Day opponent. “I think I saw [the 2023 schedule] middle of the year last year and I was kind of like, ‘Someone’s messing with me on the MLB side,'” he said with a huge grin. “I grew up as a kid watching the Giants. … Getting a chance [to have my] first Opening Day as captain, and getting a chance to play against a great organization like that, we’re going to have some fun.”
One obscure thing to impress your friends: When Volpe first arrived in spring training back in February, the reporters who cover the team talked to him at his locker. And as we typically do with players who grew up as Yankees fans, I asked whom he was most looking forward to meeting during his first spring call-up. With Volpe being only 21 years old, one generally formulates a guess as to whose name it might be. The answer for most position players, nine out of 10 times, is Jeter. But Volpe dropped an unexpected name: Willie Randolph. I was shocked, given Randolph’s years with the Yankees spanned the late 1970s and 1980s — and Volpe was only 8 years old when the Yankees won their last World Series ring in 2009. But Volpe explained that Randolph was a hero in his Yankees-crazed household, which is where his fanhood comes from. That day, I went over to talk to Randolph, a guest instructor with the club at the start of most spring trainings, and I told him about Volpe’s answer. Randolph had yet to meet Volpe — the two would work closely this spring — but he was really impressed, and asked me to let Yankees photographer Ariele Goldman Hecht know so they could take a picture together. After Randolph and Volpe met, they took the picture — which will certainly have a place of honor among the Volpe family keepsakes. — Marly Rivera