By Paul Hagen
Two of the oldest franchises in baseball will open the new season at Great American Ball Park when the Reds (established in 1869) host the Phillies (1883) tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.
The Phillies finished last season with the second-youngest roster in the Major Leagues, with an average age of 26.9 years. The Reds are expected to open the season with seven rookies: Barrett Astin, Rookie Davis, Amir Garrett, Wandy Peralta, Robert Stephenson, Stuart Turner and non-roster invitee outfielder Patrick Kivlehan.
“I think we’re ready to go,” said Reds manager Bryan Price, who came to Spring Training with eight open roster spots. “I don’t think there are unanswered questions. We’re all excited about it. Everybody is ready.”
Both teams will be looking to build on last season’s improvement.
The Phillies won 71 games, eight more than the year before. Manager Pete Mackanin said the goal is for his team is to play .500 into August. “I think we could be in the hunt if we get to that point,” he said.
To do that, they’ll have to improve an offense that finished last in MLB in runs scored. That’s why general manager Matt Klentak acquired veteran left fielder Howie Kendrick and right fielder Michael Saunders in the offseason.
The Reds, who upped their win total by four last season, added reliever Drew Storen to the bullpen and Scott Feldman to the rotation. Feldman, 34, split last season between the Astros and Blue Jays and has been named the Opening Day starter.
“I’ll do my normal routine as I would if it were my 10th start of the year or 20th start of the year,” Feldman said.
Jeremy Hellickson will make his second straight Opening Day start for the Phillies. Last year, he held the Reds to three hits and one unearned run in six innings. Hellickson’s final tuneup was four innings in a Minor League intrasquad game.
“I’m ready,” Hellickson said afterward. “It’s been a long spring, but now that it’s over, it feels like it went by fast.”
• This will be the 141st Opening Day in Cincinnati. Acknowledging their role as the sport’s first professional team, the Reds are always scheduled at home. The only times they didn’t were 1966 (rained out) and 1990 (locked out).
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last teams to have at least seven rookies on an Opening Day roster were Oakland (eight) and Seattle (seven) in 2012. However, the teams opened the season with a matchup at the Tokyo Dome in Japan and, as a result, had 28-man rosters. The last team to do it with a normal 25-man active roster was Arizona, which had seven rookies in 2007.
• Andrew Knapp (above), who hasn’t played above Triple-A, called making the Opening Day roster a dream come true, adding: “Everyone hopes to get called up at some point, but to make a team on Opening Day would be pretty special, and it would be the best moment in my career so far.”