Masterson set to start Indians' opener

Right-hander coming off great spring despite breakdown in contract talks.

Justin Masterson starts the opener for Cleveland tonight after a strong spring training.  

Daniel Shirey / USA TODAY Sports

OAKLAND -- After having one of the best springs for a pitcher, Justin Masterson is hoping that carries into the regular season. For the third straight year, the right-hander will take the hill in the Indians' opener.

The past two years Masterson's foe has been Toronto. Tonight it is Oakland in an opening series that matches two teams that made the postseason last year.

"I love being able to open up the season. Just the fact that the records are zero, everyone has got excitement so being able to go set the tone is fun," Masterson said. "It's been a great time trying to lead this staff as we go. In the end for me it's always about having some fun."

Despite the storyline being negotiations about an extension that broke off, Masterson didn't let it affect him. In six Cactus League starts, he was 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA. Opponents had a .171 average against him and he gave up jus three earned runs in 24 2/3 innings while striking out 25 and walking six.

With Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir off to other teams, Masterson will be counted on to be even more of a mentor to a young starting rotation. Corey Kluber will go on Tuesday against Kazmir and Zach McAllister will take the hill on Wednesday.

Masterson is the first Tribe pitcher since C.C. Sabathia to start three straight openers. In the past two, Masterson was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA. He will oppose Sonny Grary, who is the fifth youngest starting pitcher in franchise history since moving there in 1968.

Masterson has not fared well against the Athletics in the past. In 12 games, with eight begins starts, he is 2-6 with a 6.84 ERA.

"I don't get caught up in the matchups. I just have to go and pitch my game. You need to elevate your game on your own. You can't rely on who or which team. Have to battle yourself," Masterson said.

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