Eight former Cy Young Award winners are scheduled to start Opening Day next Thursday, including a matchup between reigning National League winner Sandy Alcantara and three-time honoree Max Scherzer, whose New York Mets travel to face the Miami Marlins.
Major League Baseball teams announced their Opening Day starters Friday as part of an effort by the league to gin up interest in the first game of a transformative season in which the game will include a pitch clock.
In his final spring training start Friday, Scherzer threw 100 pitches over six innings against the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 11 while allowing four hits and two runs.
"It's like a gender-reveal party," Mets manager Buck Showalter told reporters on Friday about announcing if it would be Scherzer or Justin Verlander starting on Opening Day. "I think we should hit a golf ball or a baseball and it explodes. What color would Max be?"
Verlander, who signed with the Mets this offseason, is scheduled to start the team's home opener on April 6.
The MLB Opening Day slate features several first-class duels -- and will include two-time winner Jacob deGrom, whose debut with the Texas Rangers was in doubt after tightness in his left side delayed his first spring training start. Philadelphia Phillies ace Aaron Nola, fresh off a World Series appearance, will get his sixth consecutive Opening Day start -- the longest current active streak -- and oppose the two-time Cy Young winner in a pairing of longtime NL East foes.
Nine teams had announced their starters before Friday. That list includes the Los Angeles Angels, with Shohei Ohtani coming off his World Baseball Classic MVP award, as well as the New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants, who will pit Gerrit Cole against Logan Webb.
Some of the other best matchups include:
Houston left-hander Framber Valdez spearheading the Astros' title defense at home against Chicago White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease;
Cleveland's Shane Bieber, the 2020 American League Cy Young winner, traveling to Seattle to face Luis Castillo;
Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Julio Urias getting his first Opening Day start against Arizona right-hander Zac Gallen in a battle of the third- and fifth-place finishers, respectively, in last year's NL Cy Young voting.
Among the other Cy Young winners who will kick off their team's season:
Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, an All-Star each of the past two seasons and the 2021 NL Cy Young winner, will go against the Chicago Cubs' Marcus Stroman, who previously started Opening Day twice;
Blake Snell, the 2018 AL honoree, gets the start for San Diego at a packed Petco Park against Colorado's German Marquez, who will get the ball for the third time on Opening Day;
Two-time winner Corey Kluber, whose Boston Red Sox will host Baltimore's Kyle Gibson;
Zack Greinke, who will make his third Opening Day start for Kansas City and fifth overall, will oppose Minnesota Twins right-hander Pablo Lopez, taking the mound for the first time to start a season.
Atlanta's Max Fried and Washington's Patrick Corbin both will start for the third time on Opening Day as the Nationals host the Braves. The rest of the matchups feature at least one pitcher commencing the season for the first time:
Detroit's Eduardo Rodriguez debuting vs. the Rays' Shane McClanahan, who got the call for the second straight season;
Toronto's Alek Manoah, coming off a third-place AL Cy Young finish, going against St. Louis' Miles Mikolas, who inherited Opening Day duties for a second time after six-time Opening Day starter Adam Wainwright landed on the injured list Thursday with a groin strain;
Pittsburgh's Mitch Keller heading to Cincinnati to face Hunter Greene in the one of three matchups of pitchers who have not previously thrown Opening Day, with the others Urías vs. Gallen and Valdez vs. Cease;
Ohtani against Oakland's Kyle Muller, the least-tenured of the 30 pitchers with just 11 major league starts and 49 big league innings under his belt. He will go for the Athletics after presumptive Opening Day starter Paul Blackburn suffered a torn nail on his right middle finger.