The Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins will open the season Friday afternoon, hoping their regular seasons can be as headline grabbing as offseasons that saw both teams add to their rosters with major free-agent signings and trades.
The debut of the revamped rosters was pushed back from Thursday, with Opening Day moved because of the forecast of rain and snow and highs in the mid-30s in Minneapolis.
Seattle, which finished second in the American League West with a 90-72 record and was just two games out of a wild-card berth, dropped one of the first free-agent bombs, signing reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray away from the Toronto Blue Jays to a five-year, $115 million contract.
The Twins, coming off a 73-89 season and last place finish in the AL Central, may have topped that with the March signing of shortstop Carlos Correa, arguably the top free agent position player, to a three-year, $105 million deal.
“I see the talent in the clubhouse and I get excited when I talk to the guys,” said Correa, who hit .279 with 26 home runs and 92 RBIs while also winning a Platinum Glove for fielding with Houston in 2021. “With the right information and the right work we can put in as a team, I think we can get so much better.”
The two teams were also making major trades with Seattle bringing in All-Star second baseman Adam Frazier from the Padres and All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker and power-hitting third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Reds. Meanwhile, the Twins dealt catcher Mitch Garver to the Rangers for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and then quickly flipped Kiner-Falefa, third baseman Josh Donaldson and backup up catcher Ben Rortvedt to the Yankees for catcher Gary Sanchez and third baseman Gio Urshela.
The Twins also traded with the Reds for starting pitcher Sonny Gray and landed two other veteran free agent starters in Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer. Combined the trio have started nine Opening Day games — Archer (4), Gray (3) and Bundy (2) — but it will be rookie right-hander Joe Ryan who gets the call against Ray on Thursday.
Ryan, obtained from Tampa Bay in a July trade for DH Nelson Cruz, went 2-1 with a 4.05 ERA in five starts with 30 strikeouts and five walks in 26 2/3 innings after starring for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics. He has never faced the Mariners and will be the first rookie to start on Opening Day for the Twins since Tom Hall in 1969.
“He’s absolutely earned the opportunity to go out there in the first game of the season for us,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said of Ryan. “He’s pitched well from the very first day I’ve ever seen him pitch, and came into camp in a really good spot, put himself in a good position, and this is the way things fell for him.”
The decision to start the left-handed Ray, who went 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA in 32 starts in 2021, was a lot easier for Seattle manager Scott Servais.
“This guy is the reigning Cy Young Award winner, and he’s had a really good camp,” Servais told the Seattle Times. “I’m certainly excited to see what he can do for us the next few years.”
Ray is 1-1 with a 6.91 ERA in four career games and three starts against the Twins, including 1-1 with a 8.59 ERA at Target Field. However, he won his last start there with the Blue Jays, 6-1, on Sept. 25, 2021, allowing one run on three hits and four walks over six innings while striking out six.
“For me, I just like the thought of setting the tone for the season,” Ray said. “I think it’s an important game. I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s the start of a seven-game road trip for Seattle, which also plays three games at defending AL Central champion Chicago. The Mariners announced Monday that highly touted 21-year-old outfield prospect Julio Rodriguez, ranked No. 3 by MLB Pipeline, made the 28-man Opening Day roster after an impressive spring.
The four-game series, which ends Monday night, has a scheduled day off on Friday which could come in handy. Thursday’s weather forecast is for a high of 40 degrees with a 90 percent chance of rain and snow showers while Friday’s forecast is 44 degrees and partly cloudy.
–Field Level Media