* The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9-2 on Opening Day Monday. Bob Elliott takes you through the first full day of the 2014 MLB season. .... 2014 Canadians in College Letters of Intent 2014 Canadian draft list 2013 Canadians in the Minors 2015 Canadian draft list
By Bob Elliott
St. PETERSBURG -- The first game of the major-league season is more than 1/162nd of the schedule.
It’s a time of new beginnings, good starts, bad starts and obtaining a batting average as opposed to .000 on the scoreboard.
9:21 AM: I open an email from a National League manager. It’s a Greg Shea piece on 2000 opening day, which reads in part:
Today you’ll dig in the closet for your glove and snap a ball into it while sipping your morning coffee. Today, as toast comes out of the toaster, you’ll still remember how to execute a perfect pop-up slide. Today you’ll drive to work and admonish yourself to “keep your head down,” your eye on the road. Today your team will be in first, planning to stay there. Today you’ll find yourself rotating your arm around your head to stretch the shoulder and keep loose. Today you’ll have the steal sign. Today you’ll wear your jacket only on your pitching arm. Today your first coach is cheering. Still.
9:30: David DeJesus is the first Rays player to arrive at Tropicana Field.
10:01: Dustin McGowan is the first Jays player to enter the visiting clubhouse. McGowan says it’s not because it’s the first time he’s made the opening day roster since 2008. “I didn’t go to Montreal, so I had to get here early to drop off my stuff.”
10:15: Jays manager John Gibbons arrives.
11:40: Rays manager Joe Maddon arrives.
12:29 PM: Bob Stanley heads to the Jays dugout. The bullpen coach, who took over for Pat Hentgen, had his first opening day in 1977, coming on in relief for Boston Red Sox starter Luis Tiant to face the Cleveland Indians before 51,165 fans.
“Pitched four innings, gave up three runs, but only one was earned,” said Stanley. “I was so nervous I kept throwing the ball into centre rather than to second base.” Boston still beat Cleveland, 8-4, and Stanley got the save.
12:56: Christopher Russo gives his predictions on MLB Network playing on the flat screen TVs in the Jays clubhouse. The Yankees in the American League East, with the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles taking the wild card spots. More than a dozen players are watching. No one throws a bat at the TV.
1:04: Josh Thole is in the starting lineup, deemed a better man to catch R. A. Dickey’s floater than Eric Kratz. How important is it to the Jays to have a good start after losing 20 of their first 30?
“Everyone says it’s not how you start, but how you finish,” said Thole. “We can’t get off to a bad start like last year.”
1:20: Joe Siddall, joining Jerry Howarth and Mike Wilner in the booth for his first regular season game, recalls opening days, taking his children out of school in Windsor and driving to Detroit to watch the Tigers. “It’s weird not being at Comerica Park,” said Siddall.
1:34: The Rays are about to take batting practice, but first third baseman Evan Longoria is fielding ground balls off the bat of coach Tom Foley ... from his knees.
1:44: Jays broadcaster Pat Tabler signs his first autograph of the 2014 season near the Jays dugout. Tabler says he’s questionable to work Friday’s home opener. Rogers Communications submitted the paper work to Canada Customs and Immigration, but he had not been aprroved. “Get Wilner up!” Never mind Tabler became a legal alien Tuesday afternoon.
1:58: After Gibbons has his daily press briefing, Siddall is spotted watching the Tigers game outside the Jays clubhouse.
2:07: Sal Butera, longest serving scout in the organization, is back in uniform for the first time since 1998 when he coached third on Tim Johnson’s staff. Butera will be the seventh coach and work with catchers. When the game starts he’ll head to the video room and be responsible for telling Gibbons when to use his challenges. “I’ll rely a lot on Ryan Mittleman. He has been doing it. I’ll have a phone to the dugout, same as the bullpen can phone the dugout.
2:14: Gibbons says “well I made it.” Made it? “Last week George King (New York Post) asked me if I was going to make it to opening day.”
2:22: Since Jim Fregosi passed Feb. 13, I didn’t once walk into a lunch room this spring without hoping I’d see him again -- and then remembering he was gone. Fregosi was a five-tool story teller. For once I put it behind Monday and walked over to a table with Bill Young from the Chicago White Sox, Steve Lyons, San Diego Padres, Tim Conroy, Kansas City, and another scout.
“Shawn Pender, Cincinnati Reds, you might not remember me but Fregosi introduced us seven years ago,” said Pender.
And then the Fregosi stories start.
3:41: The Jays are introduced to boos, save for Jose Bautista who gets a small round of cheers.
3:43: Les Sabler sings the anthems as Marshall Giullon plays the guitar.
4:00: The Rays AL Wild card banner from 2013 is raised to the rafters. Yep, I recall seeing one of those ceremonies go up opening day 1994. Probably will never see another. It’s a sold-out house in the 82-seat press box. It will be different Tuesday. Opening day, like New Year’s Eve, is for amateurs.
4:11: David Price throws the first pitch of the season. Plate ump Brian Gorman calls strike one. I’ve always liked Price. Once in extras, like about the 14th inning of a game he started, Maddon went to a five-man infield. Racing out to bring Ben Zobrist an infielder’s glove was Price. Most starters would have showered and changed.
4:12: Jose Reyes bloops a ball to centre, Desmond Jennings makes a diving catch and Reyes comes up lame.
4:18: Reyes doesn’t answer the bell for the bottom of the first (left hamstring). He played 10 games last season. He lasted 1/2 an inning and now he’s on the disabled list.
4:22: Evan Longoria, fourth hitter in the Rays' lineup, singles home Wil Myers, who had doubled, and the Jays trail.
4:39: Brett Lawrie flies out to left ending the second. Lawrie of Langley, B.C., is one of 10 Canadians on major-league rosters. The others: Etobicoke’s Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, Montreal’s Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates, Justin Morneau, New Westminster, B.C., Colorado Rockies, Ancaster’s John Axford, Cleveland Indians, Calgary’s Jim Henderson, Milwaukee Brewers, Victoria’s Michael Saunders and James Paxton of Ladner, B.C. Seattle Mariners, Jim Adduci of Burnaby, B.C. Texas Rangers. Toronto’s Jesse Crain is with the Houston Astros but will open the season on the disabled list. Ryan Dempster of Gibsons, B.C. is on the Boston Red Sox restricted list. Another 16 will be at triple-A.
Numerous times: Both Maddon and Gibbons come out to argue, walking slowly, talking slower and waiting for the signal from the dugout whether there is proof that the umps got the call right.
5:59: Esmil Rogers took over for Dickey, who allowed runs in four of the five innings he pitched: six runs on five hits and a career-high six walks. In his two opening day Jays starts, Dickey is 0-2, working 11 innings and allowing 10 runs -- nine earned -- walking 10 and striking out eight (7.36 ERA).
6:25: James Loney steals second, up 6-0. The baseball gods don’t approve. Colby Rasmus throws him out at the plate two batters later on Matt Joyce’s single.
6:35: Maicer Izturis singles leading off the eighth, ending a string of 13 hitters in which Price had recorded 12 outs.
6:56: Jeremy Jeffress fields a chopper and throws it into the right field bullpen, Bautista throws low to third, Ryan Goins covering doesn't come off the base to catch the ball and it short hops into left. A Little League homer on a 60-foot single and two throwing errors.
7:17: Rasmus gounds out to second base to end a 9-2 Rays victory.
The Jays, 7-to-1 shots to win the division and 25-to-1 longshots to win the World Series, according to Bodog Sports, opened with a 79.5 over/under win total. It was bumped to 80.5.
Only 81 wins to win your bet.