It's Opening Day!

Well, in a matter of speaking.

The very first exhibition game has arrived:  Florida State University vs. Philadelphia, first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m.  (Charlie Manuel has already announced his lineup.)

Yes, even in rainy 34-degree Lansing (wind chill: 24 degrees), it's beginning to feel a lot like spring.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and passed several shelves filled with "Fastball Flakes" at the local Meijer.

With Grapefruit and Cactus League action stirring up (in Florida and Arizona, respectively), you can expect regular updates in the coming weeks on how former Lugnuts are succeeding on their way toward the Majors.

Outside of the Parent Club:
*  2009 shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is expected to win the starting position with Atlanta, and that suits us fine.  19-year-old Tyler was just awful for the first month with the Lugs in '09, batting just .203, before figuring out the league and sizzling toward an August promotion.

Members of the Toronto Blue Jays' 40-man roster we're rooting for:  

Pitchers Henderson Alvarez '09, Chad Beck '09, and Joel Carreno '09, who all debuted last year.  Henderson in particular will be fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, while the other two are likely to begin the season in Triple-A and receive mid-season call-ups.
*  Lefty Evan Crawford '10, catcher-turned-first baseman Mike McDade '08-09, and rocket-armed right fielder Moises Sierra '08, who all might debut this year at some point.  Sierra's arm is jaw-droppingly strong, while McDade is an excellent defensive first baseman with power from both sides.

Non-roster invitees who we'll be watching closely:

*  It all starts here with pitchers Drew Hutchison '10-11 and Chad Jenkins '10, each of whom should break into the Bigs this season.  They're expecting Hutch in particular to make an impact, though Jenkins should bull his way into a fine position down the line.

*  Outfielder Anthony Gose (a non-Lugnut) will grab headlines, but we're just as interested in catchers Yan Gomes '10, A.J. Jimenez '09-'10, and Carlos Perez '11.  Sure, they're mostly only there to provide catching depth... but let's see what sorts of rave reviews A.J. gets.


*  Last year, Drew Hutchison was given a spot start against the Phillies and opened eyes on his way to a sterling season.  This year, I'd guess that the Blue Jays will give the same opportunity to the similarly polished Justin Nicolino.


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