MLB: Several top players out for opening day
AP Sports Writer
Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the list. So are Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran of the New York Mets. Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman, Colorado Rockies closer Huston Street and Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee are right there, too.
You could field a pretty good team with the injured players sitting out opening day.
"Everybody's got their challenges," said Royals manager Trey Hillman, who already has two third basemen and his No. 2 starter on the disabled list. "You just try to make sure you have enough depth and enough coverage to feel comfortable with what you're running out there."
The Red Sox hosted the World Series champion Yankees in the major league opener Sunday night, and New York catcher Jorge Posada picked up baseball's first hit of the season with a two-out solo homer off Josh Beckett in the second inning.
Baseball begins again in earnest with a full slate of games on Monday.
President Barack Obama is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals host the NL champion Philadelphia Phillies, who begin the season with closer Brad Lidge, setup man J.C. Romero and starter Joe Blanton on the DL.
One day in, and Obama will have more time on the mound than three key pitchers on one of the National League's best teams.
"I'm going to be warming him up," Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez said of baseball's First Fan. "I'm going to take a picture with him, if he'll let me. It'll be exciting."
In Cincinnati, new St. Louis hitting coach Mark McGwire will get his first true test of what to expect on the road this year when the Cardinals face the Reds. McGwire admitted over the winter to using steroids and human growth hormone for part of his playing career.
"It's going to be really good," said McGwire, looking forward to the opener. "The potential of this team is really, really good."
The Rangers also think they're going to do well this season, as evidenced by team president Nolan Ryan's prediction of at least 92 victories. But they will be without Kinsler when they host the Toronto Blue Jays on opening day.
Kinsler, who had a career-high 31 homers and 86 RBIs last year, is on the disabled list with a high right ankle sprain and the Rangers are determined to be patient with him.
"You don't want something to just keep on recurring throughout the year," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "So we have to make sure it's right, and the good thing about it, Kinsler's in a good frame with that. He wants to come back one time, we want him to come back one time, and whatever amount of time that it takes to get that done, we're going to do it."
That's the theme when it comes to injuries this early in the season: Take care of it now so it doesn't become a yearlong problem.
The Royals placed right-hander Gil Meche and infielders Alex Gordon and Josh Fields on the DL on Saturday. They also could be without switch-hitting infielder Alberto Callaspo (irritation in his right side), who is iffy for one of opening day's juiciest pitching matchups — AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke against Detroit ace Justin Verlander.
"You've got to look at the big picture," Hillman said.
The Mets also are banged up, recalling painful memories of the injuries they dealt with in 2009. Shortstop Reyes (thyroid), center fielder Beltran (right knee surgery) and first baseman Daniel Murphy (sprained right knee) will be out when New York begins its second season at Citi Field with a matchup against Josh Johnson and the Florida Marlins.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel is hoping opening-day starter Johan Santana and the rest of his rotation can shoulder the load with the position players out.
"It's definitely time for these guys to step up," he said. "Regardless if Reyes or Beltran is here, they're going to have to pitch at a high level for us to be successful."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is turning to 6-foot-11 Jon Rauch to fill the void created when closer Joe Nathan was shelved for the season following right elbow surgery. Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain and Jose Mijares also could help out if Rauch falters.
Minnesota is at the Los Angeles Angels for opening day in a matchup of defending division champions, and Gardenhire seems as anxious as anyone to see how the closer situation works out.
"Whether they can close or not, you're right there with me," he said. "We're going to be sitting in the seats watching them pitch. Hopefully they can handle the situations."
AP Sports Writers Stephen Hawkins, Jon Krawczynski, Doug Tucker, Howie Rumberg and Joseph White contributed to this report.