Towards the beginning of March, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke wasn't in the mood to designate an opening-day starter. He had two clear candidates in Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke, but he didn't want to choose back then, and no one can blame him - things change over time, and you don't need to rush with that kind of assignment. There's no benefit at all to designating an opening-day starter early, as opposed to late. Maybe by waiting, you'll even foster some competition!
Roenicke's come up with a name now.
Brewers announce Yovani Gallardo as opening day starter
Did Gallardo earn the honor over Greinke with his spring performance? Hardly. Gallardo's allowed eight runs in 18 innings, with five walks and 16 strikeouts, while Greinke's allowed two runs in just over 12 innings, with one walk and 20 strikeouts. So that sinks in: Zack Greinke has one walk and 20 strikeouts this spring.
So if anything, Greinke's stock has risen more than Gallardo's over the course of the month. But Gallardo had the slightly sexier ERA last season, and probably more importantly, Gallardo was the Brewers' opening-day starter in 2011, and in 2010. This was a decision made out of inertia. Roenicke could have tabbed Greinke, sure, but Gallardo hasn't done anything to lose the honor, right? So the honor he keeps.
Entering his Tuesday-afternoon start against the Brewers, Kansas City's Bruce Chen had pitched 12 innings and given up 21 runs. Which, you might think, called into question his status as the Royals' No. 1 starting pitcher.
But Chen got a new contract this winter for two years and $9 million, and the plan all along was for the club's highest-paid starting pitcher to start on Opening Day. And after six-plus decent innings against the Brewers, it's official:
#Royals MGR Yost tells media postgame Bruce Chen will start opener followed by Hochevar and Sanchez.
Luke Hochevar, Jonathan Sanchez, Bruce Chen ... The Opening Day starter is sort of irrelevant, generally. And specifically, there's not any real qualitative difference between the Royals' three top starters. They're all decent, good enough to start for most teams but hardly with ace potential.
If you're looking for someone to surprise us, your best candidate is probably Hochevar. But the Royals are going to give up five runs in a lot of games this season.
With Mark Buehrle departing for the free-agent dollars in Miami, Danks might be the White Sox' best starting pitcher. While he went just 8-12 last season and missed a few weeks with a strained oblique muscle, Danks also posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.93) of his career.
Granted, Gavin Floyd's got a claim on the top spot, too. In fact, Floyd and Danks have essentially been pitching twins over the last four seasons, performance-wise, with Floyd actually holding a slight edge. But for whatever reason, Danks seems to get more love as a potential ace, even though he's never really pitched like an ace for a whole season.
Of course, it really doesn't matter who starts the first game and who starts the second. Both Floyd and Danks would be solid No. 2 or 3 starters on mid-level contending teams, and there's been some talk about one or both getting traded at some point in 2012.