There is no greater time for a baseball fan than opening day. My fantasy teams are set, my game food is ready and we're less than 12 hours away from living and dying with every pitch. The Braves will be taking on Carlos Zambrano and the rest of the Cubbies - it's tough because I have "Big Z" on two of my fantasy teams - still, I hope he gets shelled and the new look Atlanta offense starts on a high note.
Here is a quick rundown of the storylines that I will be following closely during the game.
1. That Jason Heyward kid
The Braves haven't had a kid break into the big leagues with this much fanfare since Andruw Jones, and he's doing it in front of a nation-wide audience on ESPN against a really good pitcher in Zambrano. I can't wait to see his first at-bat - my money isn't on him hitting a homer, but rather taking a walk.
2. Troy Glaus playing the part of the big stick
For all the fanfare that Heyward has received, Glaus is the player that will make or break this offense. Frank Wren and the Atlanta front office were willing to bet that he could be a difference-maker in the middle of a big league lineup - if they were wrong, this team will have a hard time scoring enough runs to stay competitive.
3. Derek Lowe
Lowe threw a lot of innings last year and while he was at it won 15 game, but that doesn't mask the fact that he just wasn't a very good pitcher for large parts of the season. The veteran righty can transform the staff from a good unit, to an elite rotation if he has a rebound season. The trio of Hanson, Jurrjens and Hudson is going to be very good - and if Lowe can join them; the Braves will be a playoff team.
4. Nate McLouth
McLouth has been battling a sore hamstring and may or may not play in today's game - but whenever he suits up, he's going to be counted on to provide a steady source of offense. Everyone who followed the team this spring knows how much McLouth has struggled, it'll be interesting to see how Cox handles the situation if he doesn't get himself turned around.
Thats what I'll be paying attention to during the game, also expect a heavy dose of media love to be thrown at the feet of Bobby Cox, and deservidely so.
One more useful bit of baseball knowledge to chew on:
Derek Lowe against the Cubs in 2009
7 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 4 So
Carlos Zambrano against the Braves in 2009
6 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 6 SO