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Thursday Lineup Card: Opening Day Is Here!

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Projected Starters - A look at Thursday's matchups (all times Eastern):

Braves (Derek Lowe - R) at Nationals (Livan Hernandez - R), 1:05
Tigers (Justin Verlander - R) at Yankees (CC Sabathia - L), 1:05
Brewers (Yovani Gallardo - R) at Reds (Edinson Volquez - R), 2:10
Angels (Jered Weaver - R) at Royals (Luke Hochevar - R), 4:10
Padres (Tim Stauffer - R) at Cardinals (Chris Carpenter - R), 4:15
Giants (Tim Lincecum - R) at Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw - L), 8:00

Day Game After a Night Game: None

Injuries - A brief look at players that have been missing time with minor ailments and their expected returns.

Day-to-Day (includes players expected to make their return from the DL)

Curtis Granderson, OF, NYY - (Oblique) Expected to be in the Yankees' Opening Day lineup Thursday.
Jason Bay, OF, NYM - (Ribs) Sent back to New York to be examined by team doctors; likely headed to DL.
Stephen Drew, SS, ARI - (Abdomen) MRI came back negative, avoiding DL for now.
Jair Jurrjens, SP, ATL - (Sore side) Scheduled to throw a bullpen session Thursday.
Andrew Bailey, RP, OAK - (Forearm) Made 30 throws from 80 feet without incident Tuesday.
Koji Uehara, RP, BAL - (Elbow) Sharing early-season save chances with Kevin Gregg. Unlikely to appear in back-to-back games initially.
Chase Utley, 2B, PHI - (Knee) Headed to 15-day DL, but no timetable as he's progressing in "baby steps" right now.
J.A. Happ, SP, HOU - (Oblique) Expects to make his scheduled start Saturday.
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, CLE - (Hand) Should be ready for Opening Day after resting Wednesday with soreness.
Travis Snider, OF, TOR - (Hip) Held out of Wednesday's lineup after experiencing soreness following a slide Tuesday.
Bronson Arroyo, SP, CIN - (Mononucleosis) Pitched into seventh inning Tuesday and felt fine.
Rich Harden, RP, OAK - (Back) Threw from a mound Tuesday for the first time since mid-February. DL bound.
Pedro Feliciano, RP, NYY - (Shoulder) Diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff.
J.R. Towles, C, HOU - (Back) May avoid DL stint, set to share time behind the plate with Humberto Quintero.

Players on the DL

Mat Latos, SP, SD - (Shoulder) Will throw a side session Thursday after playing catch. Likely a couple of weeks away.
Brian Wilson, RP, SF - (Oblique) Targeting Apr. 5 return against the Padres after landing on the DL Tuesday.
Kendrys Morales, 1B, LAA - (Ankle) Started baseball activities earlier in the week.
Corey Hart, OF, MIL - (Oblique) Timetable uncertain, but retroactively on the DL from 3/22.
Jake Peavy, SP, CHW - (Shoulder) Reported no trouble after throwing 45 pitches in simulated game Tuesday.
Grady Sizemore, OF, CLE - (Knee) Should be eased back into action when activated in mid-April.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, SEA - (Stomach) Eligible to return 4/6, but no guarantee that happens.
Justin Duchscherer, SP, BAL - (Hip) Stretching out with goal of return to rotation on 4/20.
Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL - (Finger) Caught three innings Tuesday and could return in early April.
Johan Santana, SP, NYM - (Shoulder) Throwing from 75 feet on flat ground; eying late June or early July return?

Transactions - Players that have been demoted, called up, traded, released, you name it. We'll cover it here.

As the season gets underway, this section will be populated with player movement.

Closer Watch - A closer look at intriguing ninth-inning situations (check out our Closer Grid with the link to the left).

Philadelphia - Jose Contreras will likely begin the year as the Phillies' closer with Brad Lidge (shoulder) on the DL and expected to miss three-to-six weeks. Ryan Madson could be a factor for save chances as well, but both manager Charlie Manuel and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have indicated a preference to use Madson in the eighth-inning role after Contreras handle the closer's spot well when given an opportunity to do so last season.

Baltimore - Kevin Gregg is set to share save chances with Koji Uehara, but Gregg will seemingly collect the larger share of the saves at least early on as Uehara is unlikely to be available on back-to-back days. Mike Gonzalez remains in the mix as well, and depending on matchups could be summoned for ninth-inning opportunities as the Orioles' primary lefty in the late innings.

Washington - Initially, Drew Storen will share the job with Sean Burnett. Given that Storen is the right-hander and a former first-round pick with the expectations of being the long-term solution in the ninth inning, he remains the most valuable of the Nats' relievers for those in need of saves. If Storen struggles, Tyler Clippard could enter the picture, but it appears the second-year man out of Stanford will get a chance to prove that his poor spring has been put behind him.

Oakland - Brian Fuentes will open the season as the primary closer with Andrew Bailey headed to the DL. Grant Balfour is in the mix as well, but even as a left-hander, Fuentes' experience in the role could lead him to the bulk of the save chances for the A's.

Toronto - Jon Rauch is going to open the year as the Blue Jays' closer while Frank Francisco is on the DL, but manager John Farrell said that Francisco will handle the job once he's healthy enough to do so. There's no set timetable for Francisco's return, however, so there's a good chance Rauch is available your league's waiver wire if you're in a mixed league and looking for saves.

Key Matchups

Derek Lowe v. WAS - The Nats have a combined .715 OPS in 350 career plate appearances against Lowe. To make matters worse for Washington, Nyjer Morgan (1.179 OPS against Lowe) was traded to Milwaukee last weekend leaving Ian Desmond (5-for-14, 2 HR, 5 RBI) as their hitter with the most success against the veteran right-hander.

Livan Hernandez v. ATL - Many of the Braves regulars have hit Hernandez well - including Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, Martin Prado and Jason Heyward (all have an OPS of .986 or higher against him). On the other side, Alex Gonzalez (6-for-52, 2:11 BB:K) and Nate McLouth (2-for-18, 2:6 BB:K) have struggled and it may be worth considering reserving them in daily leagues where that is an option.

Justin Verlander at NYY - As you would expect for any true ace, Verlander has fared well even against a good Yankees lineup (.701 OPS against). Obviously, there's not reason to ever consider sitting Verlander when he's 100 percent healthy, but interestingly enough you can't really justify sitting any of the Yankees either despite the struggles of Robinson Cano (.465 OPS) and Mark Teixeira (.259 OPS) against him.

CC Sabathia v. DET - The Tigers have a combined .262/.329/.434 line against Sabathia, a familiar foe thanks to the start of his career in Cleveland. If you're considering Brandon Inge (.470 OPS, 61 PA) or Jhonny Peralta (.433 OPS, 15 PA) for a daily league, it's probably best to look elsewhere given their respective struggles against him.

Yovani Gallardo at CIN - You certainly didn't draft Gallardo with mentality of sitting him down in certain matchups, but he's definitely had his share of issues with the Reds in his career. In a combined 134 plate appearances, Cincinnati hitters have a combined .972 OPS against him. If nothing else, consider this as an endorsement of any Reds you're considering despite having to face the Brewers' ace.

Edinson Volquez v. MIL - Two good young pitchers against a pair of strong lineups. Maybe you should just bank on plenty of runs? The Brewers have fared well against Volquez with an .841 combined OPS against him. Even Milwaukee starter Yovani Gallardo has enjoyed success against Volquez going 2-for-3 with a homer in their meetings.

Jered Weaver at KAN - No surprises here, Weaver should be primed for a big Opening Day against the Royals on Thursday with a .695 OPS against their hitters. Alex Gordon has actually done wells against the Angels' ace, going 4-for-11 with a homer and three RBI and 4:2 BB:K in 16 plate appearances. Other than that, it looks like it could be very long Day 1 of an even longer season in Kansas City.

Luke Hochevar v. LAA - Buying into a bounceback? Hochevar has been knocked around by the Halos in his limited work against them (1.083 OPS, 49 PA). It certainly doesn't help his cause that he's facing Jered Weaver on Thursday either, so tread very carefully here in all formats.

Tim Stauffer at STL - Albert Pujols is the only Cardinal with more than 10 plate appearances against Stauffer, so there's not much of a pre-determined read here. Overall, the Cards have an .831 OPS against him, but it's just 73 plate appearances and Stauffer is now a part of the rotation so the greater question will be how his stuff holds up when he goes through the St. Louis lineup for a second and third time Thursday.

Chris Carpenter v. SD - Not surprisingly, the Padres' rebuilt and mostly young lineup hasn't seen much of Carpenter. There's not much here historically to trace, but it's safe to say that San Diego immediately gets a difficult test in their first regular season game without Adrian Gonzalez.

Tim Lincecum at LAD - Lincecum owns the Dodgers (.602 OPS over 193 PA), as they've hit just .202 against him and outside of Rafael Furcal (1.026 OPS) and Andre Ethier (.939), it could be very for the Los Angeles lineup on Thursday night. James Loney (.501 OPS) and Matt Kemp (.282 OPS) have been particularly bad against The Freak to this point and should be avoided where applicable (in Kemp's case, we're thinking more along the lines of daily pick 'em games).

Clayton Kershaw v. SF - Much like Lincecum, Kershaw has fared well against his NL West foe Thursday, holding the Giants to a .661 OPS against. Bet the under?

Recommended Pickup

Ben Francisco, PHI, OF - With Domonic Brown struggling this spring before suffering a wrist injury, Francisco has been named the Phillies' starting right fielder. He brings a nice combination of power and speed to a lineup that is still potent even without Chase Utley (knee) available to begin the year, and Francisco's versatility makes him capable of playing all three outfield spots. Once Brown is healthy enough to return and stake his claim for at-bats in the Phillies' outfield, Francisco could remain a part of the regular lineup with the aging Raul Ibanez in left field and injury-prone Shane Victorino in center. With only 179 at-bats, Francisco hit .268/.327/.441 with six homers and 28 RBI while going 8-for-8 on stolen-base attempts. Now that he's in position to push for 400-plus at-bats, he could provide 15-20 homers and steals with plenty of runs driven in and scored.