Baseball 2017 starts today: New digs in Atlanta, eggs on hot dogs in KC

Published 1:29 am Sunday, April 2, 2017

By Ben Walker

AP Baseball Writer

When Chris Archer throws the first pitch of the 2017 Major League Baseball season on Sunday, he’ll unleash all sorts of possibilities.

Can MVP Kris Bryant and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs repeat? Will home runs stay on the upswing? Heck, will Ryan Howard ever play again?

A look at what’s ahead, including new digs in Atlanta, fried eggs on hot dogs in Kansas City and a true throwback date in Florida:

OPENING DAY: The fun starts this weekend with a trio of tilts, beginning when Archer and Tampa Bay host the Yankees. Next, a neat matchup as Madison Bumgarner and the Giants take on Zack Greinke and Arizona. Followed by a Sunday night special as Jon Lester and those Cubs visit rival St. Louis.

Beyond that, a unique event on June 10 at Tropicana Field: A’s-Rays in the majors’ first scheduled single-admission doubleheader since 2011. The last day of the season? That would be Nov. 1, if the Fall Classic again goes to Game 7.

SWITCHING SIDES: Lefty ace Chris Sale got traded from the White Sox to the Red Sox, slugger Edwin Encarnacion joined the AL champion Indians and Carlos Beltran signed with Houston. Other top names who wound up in new jerseys included Dexter Fowler (Cards), popular and portly pitcher Bartolo Colon (Braves) and NL homer champ Chris Carter (Yankees).

SO LONG: Fenway Park won’t look the same without Big Papi — David Ortiz retired, done at 41 despite hitting .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBIs for Boston.

Dodger games won’t sound the same without Vin Scully — for decades, from Ebbets Field to Chavez Ravine, fans would tune in from their seats for his dulcet tones. This will be the first Dodgers opener since 1950 without him in the broadcast booth. At 89, he doesn’t plan to listen, saying, “I’ll probably have things to do.”

Also gone is Turner Field after just 20 seasons in Atlanta. The Braves open 41,000-seat SunTrust Park in the suburbs on April 14, hoping the city’s notorious traffic snarls don’t cause too much trouble. The next new MLB stadium is set for Texas in 2020.

OUCH!: Tigers star J.D. Martinez, Rockies newcomer Ian Desmond and Mets lefty Steven Matz got injured during spring training and are out for a while.

Red Sox ace David Price, Cleveland second baseman Jason Kipnis, Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius and Baltimore starter Chris Tillman also are banged up. The disabled list is down to 10 days, instead of the previous 15-day stint.

Mets closer Jeurys Familia is out 15 games, suspended under MLB’s domestic violence policy.

THEY ALL COUNT: No one really liked that the All-Star Game determined who got home-field advantage in the World Series. And now, it doesn’t. Under baseball’s new labor deal, the pennant winner with the best regular-season records gets to host Game 1.

This year’s summer showcase is July 11 at Marlins Park in Miami.

NO BAT NEEDED: Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper and other hitters will sometimes be able to leave their lumber in the bat rack under this new rule change — opposing managers can order intentional walks without a single pitch being thrown. And if a team tries to pitch around Mike Trout and falls behind 2-0, the skipper can just send him to first base, at any time in the count. No set signal yet on how to make the move — four fingers, a wave or a point, they all work.

It won’t really speed up the game much, and it’ll take away the remote chance of a wild pitch or somebody hitting an intentional ball, the way Gary Sanchez almost homered on a lob last year. There still could be some strategy involved. A manager could have his pitcher throw four wide ones, perhaps to give a reliever an extra minute to warm up in the bullpen.

MENU MADNESS: Hungry for more? Check out the rookie items at the concession stands.

The Sunrise Dog at Kauffman Stadium in KC features a hot dog topped with fried eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese and gravy. Or try the crab doughnut holes at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. And don’t forget dessert – apple pie nachos at Coors Field in Denver.

A tasty season on deck, no doubt.