Opening Day is a time of excitement not only for the fans, but for the players as well. Although he is the reigning Cy Young Award winner, David Price is still excited to be making his second career Opening Day start.
“It is very special,” Price said. “It’s the first day for us and we’re obviously at home, so we get to take the field first and we get to throw the first pitch. And we get to set our own tone. So it’s good. We enjoy it and we’re looking forward to it.”
Price also admitted to feeling nervous, even during the interview. However, considering how dominant he was down the stretch last year as the Rays were attempting to claw their way into the playoffs, chances are that Price will be in his typical form.
Another player that is excited about Opening Day is Shelley Duncan. Duncan was packed up and ready to head to Durham when he received the news that he was on the Rays roster to start the season, but had to wait to pick up his dogs from where they were staying. Fortunately, the wait saved him a potentially long trek back.
“I was about 30 minutes from leaving the house in Port Charlotte, we had the car all packed up and getting ready to go,” Duncan said. “The good thing is we couldn’t leave right after the workout [Sunday] because the dogs were at Camp Bow Wow. And you can’t pick them up on Sundays until 4 o’clock there. We had to wait. So luckily we weren’t in Georgia or something. So we were on standby for that reason, and got the phone call and made the trip 10 hours shorter.”
Duncan may get a decent amount of playing time, as he can fill in in both corner outfield spots and play first base. Plus, he gives the Rays a bit of potential power off the bench, having hit 11 home runs in each of his last three seasons. In fact, Duncan’s versatility was a factor in the decision to bring him up, according to Joe Maddon.
“Just looking at what we may need, with the right-handed bat versus the left-handed pitcher, the power — he can put the ball in the gap or in the seats,” Maddon said. “I think he’s become a better first baseman also, when you want to give James [Loney] a day off, it’s possible. … There’s a lot of things he can do, plus I just think he’s really good on the team, too.”
For the eighth consecutive year, the Rays Opening Day is sold out. Even though tickets for the next two games of the series are still available, and despite the Rays attendance issues, the sell out streak for Opening Day is a good sign. it may be proof that, should the Rays get a ballpark in an area that is easier to get to, they may be able to build a fanbase that goes to games. As it stands, the Rays are actually the most watched team in Florida, showing that their fanbase is growing. It may take some time, but there is hope that the Rays can finally get the attendance figures that a competitive ballclub deserves.
Finally, the Rays Opening Day lineup was announced yesterday. There really are not too many surprises with the lineup, aside from Sam Fuld getting the start in right while Ben Zobrist plays second. Kelly Johnson is the designated hitter for Opening Day, but the rest of the lineup is roughly what may have been expected. Here is a look at the expected lineup:
Have a great Opening Day everyone, and go Rays!