Today’s Trivia: As Bobby Cox readies himself for his final Opening Day, let’s look back on his first. In Cox’s first game as manager (April 7, 1978), a pair of future Hall of Famers dueled on the mound, as the Braves started Phil Niekro against the Dodgers’ Don Sutton. But perhaps more interesting than that? Which two current managers played in that game? (Hint: both are now over 60!)
* Over the last 50 years, there have been four instances of a pitcher getting the start on Opening Day after missing all of the previous season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. On Monday, three pitchers will do just that. Jake Westbrook, Ben Sheets and Shaun Marcum are all starting the opener for their respective teams after missing all of the last year. The last pitcher to do that was Carl Pavano for the Yankees in 2007. Prior to that: Scott Erickson (’02 Orioles), Alex Fernandez (’99 Marlins), Diego Segui (’77 Mariners). And because you don’t get to type this name enough – the last pitcher to do it prior to 1960 was Vinegar Bend Mizell for the 1956 Cardinals after serving in Korea.
* With the NCAA title game tonight, you're probably wondering what baseball history has to say about tonight's outcome. When was the last time a Butler faced a Duke in the MLB? On July 26, 1970, Indians catcher Duke Sims went 0-2 against Bill Butler of the Royals. Score one for Butler there. However, if home run hitting is any indicator, this one could be all Duke. There have been 19 players with the last name Butler in MLB history. Led by Billy and Brett, those Butlers hit a combined 118 home runs. Duke Snider alone had 407 homers. What about the actual schools, you ask? Well, Butler has only produced four MLB players to Duke's 31. But the last time we saw a Duke-Butler meeting at the plate? On April 6, 1998, Butler's Doug Jones (then on the Brewers) got Duke's Ryan Jackson (Marlins) to fly out to center.
* President Obama will throw out the first pitch this afternoon in Washington, continuing a now 100-year tradition started by William Howard Taft. This will be the 63rd time that a sitting President has thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day, with only Jimmy Carter never doing so since Taft. An interesting trend has emerged though. Including Obama, three of our last four Presidents have been real lefties – that is, with their throwing arm. Only the A’s, Blue Jays, Mets and Phillies feature three lefties in their Opening Day rotation. Interestingly, our last five presidents only had 24 fewer wins last season than Toronto’s current rotation.
* Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt will be starting their 8th straight openers, the longest active streak followed by Carlos Zambrano at six. Chipper Jones will be making his 14th straight Opening Day start for the Braves, the longest active streak with one team. Next on that list are Todd Helton (13) and Paul Konerko (12). No Derek Jeter? He missed the first four games on 2001. Otherwise, he’d be one spot ahead of Jones.
* Today’s Leaderboard: If you are going to get Xavier Nady in the lineup, you might as well make it on Opening Day. The Cubs outfielder is a career .481 hitter in the first game of the season, highest among active players with 15 at-bats. Nady also has five home runs on Opening Day. Only Ken Griffey Jr. (8) and Adam Dunn (6) have more among active players.
FAST OUT OF THE GATE
Highest career Opening Day batting average among active players (minimum 15 AB)
Matchup(s) of the Day:
Mark DeRosa is 13-27 lifetime against Roy Oswalt. That .481 batting average is the highest for any hitter that has faced Oswalt at least 20 times.
Trivia Answer: Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston (who is now 66) appeared as a pinch hitter for the Braves and made the final out the game. Dusty Baker (who is now 60) started in LF for the Dodgers.