The start of the 2022 MLB season has finally arrived!
Beginning with seven Opening Day games on Thursday and continuing with the rest of MLB in action Friday, it’s time to welcome in a new year on the diamond. To celebrate baseball’s return, we’ve asked our experts to weigh in on what they are most excited to watch — and make a fearless Opening Day prediction.
Be sure to refresh this page early and often for our live updates and takeaways from every Opening Day game on both Thursday and Friday.
Season preview: Power ranks | Predictions | Moves that rocked the offseason
ESPN+: Passan’s predictions | How Opening Day was saved | 2022 changes
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Thursday’s Opening Day schedule
All times Eastern
7:05 p.m. on ESPN+ (delayed): Mets (Megill) at Nationals (Corbin)
8:00 p.m. on ESPN2: Reds (Mahle) at Braves (Fried)
9:38 p.m.: Astros (Valdez) at Angels (Ohtani)
9:40 p.m.: Padres (Darvish) at Diamondbacks (Bumgarner)
Friday openers: Red Sox-Yankees, White Sox-Tigers, A’s-Phillies, Orioles-Rays, Dodgers-Rockies, Mariners-Twins, Marlins-Giants and Rangers-Blue Jays
Zack Greinke has been one of the best pitchers in the majors for almost two decades, and he cut his teeth as a young member of the Kansas City Royals from 2004 to 2010. Now he’s back on his original team and picking up right where he left off, throwing 5⅔ innings and giving up just five hits and one run against the Cleveland Guardians on Opening Day.
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) April 7, 2022
The last dance
Superstar slugger Albert Pujols announced that 2022 will be his final season in the majors after signing a one-year deal with the St. Louis Cardinals in March. He spent the first 11 seasons of his MLB career with the Cardinals, winning two World Series titles and three National League MVP awards. As Pujols approached the plate for his first at-bat of the season Thursday against the visiting Pirates, fans showered him with cheers.
What an ovation for @PujolsFive.
— MLB (@MLB) April 7, 2022
First home run of the year
— MLB (@MLB) April 7, 2022
First run of the year
After three innings, the first run of the season is on the board. Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain hit a groundout to first, but Andrew McCutchen was able to make it home to give visiting Milwaukee a 1-0 lead over the Cubs in the top of the fourth.
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) April 7, 2022
Welcome to the league
Getting called up to the majors is a big moment for any baseball player. Leading up to Opening Day on Thursday, players were notified that they made their teams’ rosters, which produced some touching moments for the teams and players.
During the Chicago Cubs’ spring training game against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, pitcher Ethan Roberts was notified by manager David Ross that he made the Opening Day roster. Roberts, who was drafted by the Cubs in 2018, was visibly emotional after receiving the news. The Cubs’ first game of the season is against the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday.
.@Cubs pitcher Ethan Roberts was told he made the big league club.
This is what it looked like. 😭
— MLB (@MLB) April 5, 2022
Julio Rodriguez, the No. 3 prospect as ranked by ESPN, got the nod for the Seattle Mariners’ Opening Day roster. He signed with the team as an international free agent in 2017. Rodriguez is slated to start in center field and will make his debut on Friday against the Minnesota Twins.
Rodriguez was full of excitement when manager Scott Servais broke the news. Things got even better for the 21-year-old when he was informed that his parents will be in attendance for his first MLB game.
There’s no better feeling than when you work your whole life for something and you see it unfolding right before your eyes.🙏🏽💙
I’m just grateful for the opportunity and I will make the best of it.🤞🏽 https://t.co/YqTeMS4j02
— Julio Rodriguez🇩🇴🦁 (@JRODshow44) April 5, 2022
The Kanas City Royals drafted Bobby Witt Jr. second overall in the 2019 MLB draft. Roughly three years later, he will make his big league debut, starting at third base for the team against the Cleveland Guardians. The 21-year-old was all smiles after hearing he made the Royals’ Opening Day roster … and later recorded his first hit.
🙏 blessings! https://t.co/f7j64EV7Ya
— Bobby Witt Jr (@BwittJr) April 5, 2022
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) April 7, 2022
Seiya Suzuki made his MLB debut against the Brewers on Thursday. In March, he signed a five-year deal with the Cubs. Before joining Chicago, he played in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league, in which he was a four-time All-Star and three-time Golden Glove winner. In the bottom of the fifth, Suzuki hit a ball into left field for the first hit of his MLB career.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 7, 2022
Opening Day well wishes
The Atlanta Braves begin their quest to defend their World Series title against the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. The Georgia Bulldogs, who won the College Football Playoff National Championship in January, wished the team good luck on their upcoming season.
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 7, 2022
The Chicago Bears shouted out to both the White Sox and Cubs ahead of their first games of the MLB season.
🗣️ PLAY BALL!
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 7, 2022
Takeaways from Thursday’s action
Cardinals defeat Pirates 9-0: It was turn back the clock day at Busch Stadium: Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright were all in the starting lineup for the Cardinals for the first time since Sept. 9, 2010. While the Cardinals cruised to a 9-0 victory behind Wainwright’s six scoreless innings and Tyler O’Neill ‘s five RBIs, it wasn’t quite the storybook return to St. Louis for Pujols that everyone desired.
“He’s back,” intoned the Cardinals’ PA announcer during pregame introductions and Cardinals fans gave Pujols a standing ovation as he hugged former Cardinals greats like Mark McGwire and Jim Edmonds. In his first at-bat, Pujols wiped away some tears as the fans chanted “Al-bert! Al-bert!” — echoing the joyful chorus heard so many times during his initial 11 seasons with the Cardinals. He flew out to left field and would finish 0-for-5, twice reaching on errors.
Can he help the Cardinals? That’s the risk in bringing an aging all-time great back. If he struggles, it puts rookie manager Ollie Marmol in a tough spot. Pujols started this game against a right-hander — Marmol wasn’t about to sit him on Opening Day — but will primarily serve as the DH against left-handers. Let’s hope there’s enough juice left in the bat to help in that small role. –David Schoenfield
Royals defeat Guardians 3-1: Before today’s Opening Day start, the last time Zack Greinke pitched for the Kansas City Royals was 12 years and more than 2,000 innings ago. As many things as age changes, it cannot rob Greinke of what’s always been his greatest asset, even better than his fastball or slider or changeup: his mind. Greinke’s approach to pitching, combined with the stuff of his youth, made him elite and will forge his path toward the Hall of Fame.
To see him on Thursday afternoon, carving up a Cleveland Guardians lineup in a 3-1 victory highlighted by top prospect (No. 2 on Kiley McDaniel’s top 100 list) Bobby Witt Jr.’s go-ahead RBI double in the eighth inning, was to see a master craftsman making art in real time.
The radar gun doesn’t light up as it once did, and the batters don’t swing and miss as they used to, but Greinke, through location, sequencing and other tricks of the trade, still understands how to get outs. Some lineup will prove more difficult to traverse than others. One strikeout in 5 2/3 innings is not a long-term recipe for success, even with Kansas City’s phenomenal defense. And yet Greinke, now 38, left to a huge ovation in his return. On the day the future of the franchise debuted, the prodigal son returned, different than before, same as ever. –Jeff Passan
Cubs defeat Brewers 5-4: The first game of the 2022 MLB season provided a reminder that you never know what you are going to see when you go to the ballpark. Cubs shortstop Nico Hoerner hit the first home run of the 2022 season off reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes. Yes, you read that right. Hoerner, who hadn’t hit a long ball in two seasons, became the first player to follow up a homerless year with a dinger on Opening Day since Emilio Bonifacio in 2009. Burnes, on the other hand, walked the first batter he faced in 2022, after the Brewers ace set a major league record by striking out 58 before issuing his first base on balls a season ago. Yeah, you can’t predict baseball.
All in all, Burnes walked three batters in five innings on Thursday — including issuing a free pass to Japanese rookie Seiya Suzuki, who walked twice, had a single and scored a run in his MLB debut. — Jesse Rogers
Opening Day predictions and what we can’t wait to see
What’s the one thing you are most excited to watch on Opening Day?
Bradford Doolittle: I’m in Minneapolis for a Twins-Mariners series that was pushed back a day because of some inhospitable early spring weather. The upside is that I get two Opening Days and can watch the debut of Bobby Witt Jr. in Kansas City on a screen of some sort Thursday before getting to see Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez firsthand on Friday. We haven’t always seen the most exciting prospects on Opening Day (Witt is No. 2 and Rodriguez is No. 3 on Kiley McDaniel’s top 100 prospect list), so this is a wonderful thing. A great American League Rookie of the Year race is on.
Jesse Rogers: The debut of Cubs rookie Seiya Suzuki. He’s a multiple-tools player with power to all fields and a rocket of an arm. As noted in the recent collective bargaining agreement battle, most rookies don’t make a lot of money — but Suzuki signed a five-year, $85 million contract this offseason, so eyes will be on him throughout the baseball world. He has a chance to be the next big star on a team suddenly void of them. Thursday is his first chance to show fans across the city of Chicago what they’re getting.
David Schoenfield: The most fascinating team to watch in April might be the Padres. There is a lot of pressure on a team that now runs one of the highest payrolls in baseball and is coming off a losing season. They collapsed down the stretch, and while the rotation is healthy again, the Padres will have to play a couple of months without Fernando Tatis Jr. So on Opening Day, I want to see how Yu Darvish looks after going 1-8 (6.16 ERA) in the second half. I want to see how new manager Bob Melvin sets up his late-game bullpen. I want to see if Ha-Seong Kim can not only fill in for Tatis but hit like he did in Korea after struggling in his debut season. I want to see which Manny Machado shows up. The Padres begin with 14 games against the Diamondbacks, Giants, Rangers and Pirates — a golden opportunity to get off to a hot start and put 2021’s disappointment behind them.
Joon Lee: I’m with David on this one. The Padres are at a fascinating inflection point in the tenure of AJ Preller with the injury of Tatis and the level of financial investment in this team’s core. According to multiple sources, the Padres club chemistry suffered under Jayce Tingler, so the addition of Melvin will completely shake up the team’s locker room dynamics. I’m interested to see which Darvish shows up on Opening Day and how former Cy Young winner Blake Snell fares in his second season in San Diego after struggling to put up numbers akin to his tenure in Tampa Bay. Especially after the trade for Eric Hosmer fell through and Tatis’ injury, the team will need its high-salary players to play better in 2022.
Buster Olney: I’m in Atlanta, and I’ll be fascinated to see the reception for new first baseman Matt Olson — and I’d expect that it will be loud and lasting. If anybody is going to replace Freddie Freeman at first, Olson is the perfect candidate given his local roots, his age, his power. If the Braves’ magic script from last year’s World Series is still in play, then Olson will get a pivotal hit — and the Atlanta fans will go wild. What a story that would be.
Coley Harvey: I am beyond excited to be joining Buster in my hometown of Atlanta, where I’ll have a front-row seat for a coronation that’s been a generation in the making. And as a lifelong supporter of all things ATL, 404, Chick-fil-A and Waffle House, the 10-year-old inside me still can’t believe one of the pro teams from his city is finally about to have another banner-raising night. The Braves’ 1995 and 2021 championships and Atlanta United’s MLS title in 2018 are all we’ve got! After the 28-3 memes and jokes, the City Too Busy To Hate more than deserves to celebrate last October’s World Series win one more time. Atlantans have earned it.
Alden Gonzalez: I’ll be at Angel Stadium on Thursday, and because of that I’ll be the luckiest of us all. Shohei Ohtani will be on the mound and he will be in the lineup, beginning what promises to be another enthralling season as a two-way player. The talk around Angels camp this spring centered on whether Ohtani can actually be better this year, given how he improved as a pitcher and how he grew comfortable with the two-way role as the season progressed. It sounds impossible — until you realize how special this man is.
Tim Keown: The Mets got Max Scherzer to team with Jacob deGrom, and they’re Opening Day starter is … Tylor Megill. Next to the Pirates’ JT Brubaker, Megill is the most non-Opening Day starter on Opening Day. Even Oakland has Frankie Montas, even though there’s a chance he could be traded before Friday’s first pitch in Philadelphia. This might not mean a whole lot — Scherzer is supposed to be back soon, maybe even for the second game — but is sure feels like an omen.
Jeff Passan: All due respect to Bobby Witt Jr., whose debut I’ll see in person, but the greatest show in sports is performing today on a different stage. For the first of hopefully many times this season, Shohei Ohtani spends his day pitching in the top half of innings and hitting in the bottom half. He will do that thing where he throws 100-mph pitches and hits 100-mph rockets. His magnificence knows no bounds. And as a bonus Opening Day treat, the Shohei Ohtani Rule — which allows him to remain in the game as a hitter after he’s yanked as a pitcher — gets its first whirl.
It’s time to call your shot: What is your one Opening Day prediction that will definitely come true?
Doolittle: Albert Pujols is going to homer in St. Louis. Even if it turns out to be the only homer he hits all season, there is no way this doesn’t happen. There are a lot of young Cardinals fans in St. Louis who have only heard about Pujols from their parents. It’s tremendous that they get to experience him this year as he moves on from a Hall of Fame career.
Rogers: Corbin Burnes will one-hit the Cubs — and Suzuki will be the only hitter to get to him. Chicago has little left-handed pop, while right-handed opponents compiled a miniscule .179 batting average against him in 2021. With a right-handed-hitting player at first base and right field — two positions often reserved for lefty power hitters — the Cubs will be at a disadvantage against top righties all season. Trying to hit against Burnes on Thursday, in 40 degree weather, will make things that much more difficult.
Schoenfield: Machado got off to a slow start in 2021, but with Tatis out, the Padres need him to hit from the get-go. He hasn’t hit Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner that well during his career (.212/.257/.515), although three of his seven hits off him are home runs. I say he goes yard twice off MadBum as the Padres win their opener.
Olney: He’s not pitching on Opening Day, but I’ll call that this will be the last year that future Hall of Famer Jacob deGrom is with the Mets. Steve Cohen has demonstrated he’s ready and willing to invest in any way he feels can help the Mets, but there are just too many variables involved for deGrom to return — the questions about his health now, his health moving forward, and most importantly, what he wants. We’ll look back at his assertion that he’s opting out of his contract in spite of his recent injury as the first true signal that he’s headed elsewhere.
Gonzalez: Rodriguez and Witt Jr. will each hit home runs in their major league debuts. The two highlight what looks like an incredibly deep AL Rookie of the Year field, along with Spencer Torkelson. Eventually Adley Rutschman and Riley Greene will join them. Not included in this list: Wander Franco, who exceeded his rookie eligibility last year but will play in his first full season in 2022. He might be the biggest star of them all. The young talent in the sport is amazing right now — and I only accounted for one league.
Keown: We’ll all be reminded that Mike Trout not only exists but remains the best player in the sport. The eyes of the game will be on Shohei Ohtani to start the Angels’ opener against the Astros, but by the end of the fourth or fifth inning, it’ll be Trout’s night.
Lee: Shohei Ohtani will come out of the gates strong on Opening Day, showing that last year wasn’t a mirage and that it’s possible to pitch and hit at a high level across multiple seasons — and opening up the idea that teams could potentially develop more two-way players, not necessarily at the level of Ohtani, but to maximize the value of every roster spot.
Harvey: OK, so Austin Riley‘s Grapefruit League showing wasn’t the strongest (.214, 6-for-28), but I’m banking hard on him having a big opening night. This will happen in what will be his first game at Truist Park since the World Series. At home last postseason, he hit .419 (13-for-31) with five extra-base hits. He’ll tap into that hitting success again in front of another raucous and frenzied Atlanta crowd, giving fans some late-inning magic.
Passan: Last we saw Max Fried, he was throwing six shutout innings for Atlanta in a World Series-clinching game. Prior to that, he had the lowest second-half ERA of any pitcher (1.74). And today, in front of a Truist Park crowd ready to fete its world champions, Fried gets the ball against a Cincinnati Reds team that traded its best hitter amid an ugly teardown. All of which is to say his pitching line will be 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 9 strikeouts — and he’ll be in Cy Young contention throughout the season.
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MLB Opening Day live: Cubs hit the first home run of the year, prospects make their debuts and more
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