Philadelphia Phillies @ Texas Rangers
Scheduled Start Time: 2:05 PM ET
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Texas Rangers unveil their new slugging first baseman on Monday when they open the 2014 season against the Philadelphia Phillies at Globe Life Park
Texas acquired Prince Fielder in a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Tigers over the winter, sending second baseman Ian Kinsler the other way. The Rangers also lost Nelson Cruz to free agency, but replaced him with Shin-Soo Choo, who was signed to a seven-year, $130 million deal.
It seems like a pretty big overhaul for a team that went 91-72 a year ago, but missed out on the postseason for the first time in four years. General manager Jon Daniels is banking on the new faces helping an offense that last season finished seventh in the American League in runs scored (730).
The Rangers, though, will only go as far as ace Yu Darvish will take them. Darvish, though, will start the season on the disabled list with a stiff neck. Also out for the Rangers is second baseman Jurickson Profar, who will miss 10-12 weeks with a shoulder injury.
So instead of Darvish on Monday the Rangers will turn to 27-year-old righty Tanner Scheppers, who will be making his first big league start after 115 appearances out of the bullpen for Texas.
Scheppers will be the first pitcher to make his first Major League start on Opening Day since Fernando Valenzuela with the Dodgers in 1981.
'I'm just extremely excited for the opportunity,' Scheppers said. 'Let's get this season started and get things rolling in the right direction.'
Philadelphia, meanwhile, enters this season on the heels of its first losing campaign since 2002.
The Phillies ended up finishing fourth in the NL East (a game behind the New York Mets) and missed the playoffs for a second straight year following five straight NL East titles, a span that included a World Series title in 2008.
One would think this would signal a glance towards the future, but that is not how Philadelphia and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. want to do things.
Instead, the Phils are banking on a core of players in their mid-30s and the biggest additions this offseason consisted of 36-year-old outfielder Marlon Byrd, 36-year-old backup catcher Wil Nieves and 37-year-old starter A.J. Burnett.
The fact that the 40-year-old Bobby Abreu has a good shot at a bench spot should tell you all you need to know about the 2014 Phillies.
For what it's worth, some change towards the future has come. Ryne Sandberg begins his first season as the full-time manager after having replaced the likeable Charlie Manuel with 42 games to go last season.
Sandberg had no problem tabbing lefty Cliff Lee as his Opening Day starter. Lee was 14-8 a year ago, and ranked second in the NL in strikeouts (222) and posted a 2.87 ERA.
These teams haven't met since Philly took two of three back in 2011.