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Monday, March 31, 2014
W2W4: Opening Day (and series)

By Richard Durrett

ARLINGTON, Texas -- After six weeks of spring training (and more than a few trips to see doctors and surgeons), the Texas Rangers are finally ready to face the Philadelphia Phillies at 1:05 p.m. today to start the first three-game series of the season.

Before each series, we'll give you a quick preview of what to watch during the two-, three- or four-game set.

Series: vs. Philadelphia Phillies at Globe Life Park, Monday (1:05 p.m.), Tuesday (7:05 p.m.) and Wednesday (7:05 p.m.)

Lee returns: This is the first time that Cliff Lee has pitched in Arlington since he was wearing a Rangers uniform. That was in 2010, when the blockbuster trade deadline deal to get Lee helped the Rangers get past the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS and eventually get to the franchise's first World Series. ... Lee's numbers against the Rangers aren't impressive. He's 7-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 11 career starts vs. Texas as the Rangers have hit .269 against him. ... In Arlington, Lee is 6-5 with a 5.07 ERA in his career.

Fielder feasts?: Monday is also the first day to see Prince Fielder in a regular-season game for the Rangers. Fielder hit a home run in his first at-bat in a Rangers jersey at Globe Life Park in Thursday's exhibition and is 21-for-85 (.265) with four homers and 15 RBIs and a .965 OPS in his career in Arlington. ... Fielder is 6-for-8 with a homer and six RBIs against Lee in his career. And he doesn't mind facing the Phillies' other two starters in the series -- A.J. Burnett (Fielder is 4-for-14 with two HRs, four RBIs) and Kyle Kendrick (3-for-5, HR, five RBIs).

Choo leading off: New Ranger Shin-Soo Choo will be the club's first batter of the season. He's just 1-for-6 off Lee in his career. ... Choo joins an interesting list of Rangers leadoff batters on Opening Day, taking over for Ian Kinsler, who did it five of the past six seasons. Who was the only non-Kinsler leadoff hitter since 2008? Julio Borbon in 2010.

Scheppers makes history: He's the first pitcher since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 to make his first big-league start on Opening Day. ... Scheppers is also the fifth different Ranger to start on Opening Day the past five seasons (Scott Feldman, 2010; C.J. Wilson, 2011; Colby Lewis, 2012; Matt Harrison, 2013). ... Yu Darvish was supposed to make the start, but neck stiffness altered that plan.

First pitch, first anthem: Hall of Famer Greg Maddux will throw out the honorary first pitch Monday. Maddux is a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels. ... The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra will perform the National Anthem on Monday, 20 years after they did so to open the stadium with the late Van Cliburn on piano.

Mound Matchups:

Monday vs. Philadelphia: RHP Tanner Scheppers vs. LHP Cliff Lee, 1:05 p.m., FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540
Tuesday vs. Philadelphia: LHP Martin Perez vs. RHP A.J. Burnett, 7:05 p.m., FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540
Wednesday vs. Philadelphia: LHP Robbie Ross vs. RHP Kyle Kendrick, 7:05 p.m., FSSW/ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM/1540