No matter your disposition on the state of the Mets, Opening Day is always a clean slate for all and everyone starts the season 0-0. How can you not get excited to hear the sound of the crack of the bat and the ball hitting the leather, which is now about to be heard in Queens for the summer?
Today’s Opening Day vs. the Atlanta Braves is not ripe with anticipation for many in the fanbase as many feel this year is a wasted season, but there are many out there with the thought that hope springs eternal. With that said, here are five things to look for in today’s (50th for the franchise) Opening Day contest with the Braves.
1. How will Johan Santana hold up?
Fighting the odds all spring, Santana has come back strong and has had no setbacks during his rehab from major shoulder surgery. By all accounts, Santana had a fine spring, but now the games will count and everything going forward will be magnified tenfold. It should be interesting to see how Santana’s body responds. One thing to look for on Opening Day is how he looks from a stamina perspective. Without a doubt, just the mere fact that Santana is back is refreshing, but eventually he is going to have to prove his worth with results.
2. Defense, Defense, Defense!
With Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda penciled into the lineup, the Mets are implying that offense trumps defense. Murphy and Duda have potent enough bats that the Mets will begrudgingly turn a blind eye to some shoddy defense. It’s not just Duda and Murphy to look for, as Josh Thole has to step up in this regard too. It will also be interesting to see how Andres Torres adjusts in center field as well. In fact, many of the players will be acclimating themselves with the new dimensions for the first time on Thursday.
3. How will the bullpen be used?
Aside from the impractical happening, in Santana finishing off a complete game in 90 pitchers or less, the revamped bullpen will be thrust into action today. So far this spring neither Frank Francisco, Jon Rauch nor Ramon Ramirez has impressed anyone, but considering the money that was spent to bring in that trio they should be used in today’s game. It should also be interesting to see how Bobby Parnell is used and if he can build off his inspiring spring training showing. How effective and reliable this bullpen can be will remain a focal point all season. For the Mets to stay in contention or have a semblance of a good season, they have to get valued production out of the bullpen.
4. Will Andres Torres be adequate at lead-off?
One of the more compelling storylines this spring for the Mets was how Torres would replace Jose Reyes at the top of the order. When he was healthy, Torres was providing a spark this spring. However, Torres missed the latter stages of Spring Training with a calf injury, but returned to games this week. With Torres back in the fold, the Mets will finally field their projected lineup on Opening Day for the first time in what seems like forever. Torres doesn’t have to exactly light the world on fire, but he needs to get on base, steal bases and do the little things for his impact to be felt.
5. How will the new dimensions play out?
Now that the fences have been moved in and lowered, we’ll all be witness to Citi Field Home Run watch 2012. The move was made in order to bolster the Mets’ offense while restoring the fragile psyche of “sluggers” David Wright and Jason Bay. It’s not just Wright and Bay who will be the beneficiaries, but Duda and Ike Davis should also take a liking to the new dimensions. It would be nice to see some shots that would have otherwise been outs or extra-base hits in the old park fly out on opening day. So, let’s see that big red shinny apple be put to the test right away.
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