Play ball: Overhauled D-backs host Cardinals
PHOENIX (AP) — Adam Wainwright begins earning his newfound wealth on Monday.
The right-hander will be on the mound for his third Opening Day start when the Cardinals face the remodeled Diamondbacks, who for the second year in a row will open with Ian Kennedy.
Wainwright’s start comes four days after he agreed to contract that guarantees him $109.5 million over the next six seasons. Last year, Wainwright was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA after missing all of the team’s 2011 championship season because of elbow surgery.
“He’s the full package of the guy you look for in your ace,” St. Louis right-hander Jake Westbrook said. “He has all those qualities. We are going to feed off of him and go from there.”
Wainwright leads a St. Louis team that, as always, begins the year with high expectations. The Cardinals fully expect to supply Wainwright and the rest of their pitching staff with plenty of run support.
“I think we’ve been very good over the past two years,” said first baseman Allen Craig, who also has a new contract, “and I don’t see any reason why we can’t be one of the best offenses in the National League this year.”
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, traded right fielder Justin Upton and added Martin Prado at third base. Three projected regulars — outfielders Adam Eaton and Cody Ross, and shortstop Willie Bloomquist — open on the disabled list.
“We don’t need any more injuries,” manager Kirk Gibson said.
Neither do the Cardinals, who start with third baseman David Freese and closer Jason Motte on the DL.
Eaton, the speedy rookie center fielder, is out for about six weeks with an arm injury. He was to be the leadoff hitter in a lineup that wants to rely more on small ball than on home runs.
Kennedy, a 21-game winner in the D-backs’ NL West championship season of 2011, started slowly last year but finished strong, going 15-12 with a 4.02 ERA overall.
Catcher Miguel Montero raved about the rebuilt roster, especially in terms of team chemistry.
“We’ve got a good, solid lineup and bench players,” he said. “More than that, we’ve got good, solid players with good personalities and great attitudes. That’s great — veteran guys that have been around winning ballclubs and can bring a lot to the team.”
The most significant addition is Prado, who came over in the deal that sent Upton to the Braves. Prado will bat in his customary No. 2 spot, with Aaron Hill dropping to third in the batting order. Both Prado and Hill batted over .300 last season.
Montero moves into the cleanup spot, at least for now. Gibson has a history of juggling his batting order.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who just got a new contract after just one full season in the majors, bats fifth, followed by Jason Kubel, the only returnee from the the D-backs’ Opening Day outfield a year ago.
Gibson, entering his third full season as Diamondbacks manager, calls this “a very close” group.
“They’ve had a good time, they work together, they talk about the game, they’re engaged in the things that we’ve worked on,” he said. “They’ve been open to it. They haven’t been bored with it. They’ve executed in the games. They’ve been open to looking at themselves when things didn’t go the way we wanted, understanding why mistakes are made. You can tell right now they’re ready for the season to start. … There’s a lot of good conversation going on about where we’re headed and how we’re going to get there.”
Mike Matheny opens his second season as Cardinals manager and will have center fielder Jon Jay batting leadoff.
“If you are hitting at the top of the order, you definitely want to score runs, and we’ve got the guys who are capable of doing it,” Jay said. “My job is simple: Get on base and hope we score a lot of runs.”
Third baseman Matt Carpenter bats second ahead of left fielder Matt Holliday, Craig, right fielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Yadier Molina.
“Our lineup has a lot of depth in it, and there’s a lot of interchangeable parts,” Jay said. “We have a good lineup. Guys are going to be coming off the bench who could play every day.”
The D-backs will start slimmed-down right-hander Trevor Cahill on Tuesday, and the Cardinals will go with left-hander Jaime Garcia. On Wednesday night, right-hander Brandon McCarthy makes his Diamondbacks debut in his first big league start since he sustained a horrific head injury when he was struck by a line drive while pitching for the Athletics last September. Right-hander Lance Lynn starts the series finale for the Cardinals.