The Texas Rangers aren't wasting any time in seeing what they have in Jacob deGrom.
The ace right-hander, who signed a five-year, $185 million contract with the Rangers in the offseason, will face Philadelphia's Aaron Nola when the 2023 Major League Baseball season opens next Thursday.
All 30 clubs will be in action that day for the first time since 1968.
This will be deGrom's fourth career opening day start. The two-time Cy Young winner got the nod from 2019-21 while pitching for the New York Mets. Texas has been cautious with deGrom during spring training after the 34-year-old reported tightness in his left side right before team workouts began in February.
His work over the last month has been solid enough that the Rangers did not hesitate in making deGrom the seventh different pitcher to get the ball on opening day for the team in the last seven years.
"Early, we had to hold him back a little bit, but we think he's good to go," new Texas manager Bruce Bochy said. "We have the day off after opening day, so we can cover him. We're not looking for him to take us real deep in the game or anything. So this just makes all of the sense in the world to us."
Nola, by contrast, has been a fixture for the Phillies. The 29-year-old will make his sixth opening day start for Philadelphia. Only Hall of Famers Robin Roberts (12) and Steve Carlton (10) have started more season openers in Phillies' history.
Eight Cy Young winners in all will take the mound on March 30, including Corey Kluber, who will make his first start for Boston when the Red Sox face Baltimore. Kluber is the first newcomer to start Boston's first game since David Price in 2016.
Miami's Sandy Alcantara will the first Marlins pitcher to start four straight openers when he takes on three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and the New York Mets. Alcantara, a unanimous choice for the NL Cy Young in 2022, will break a tie with Josh Beckett (2003-05) and Josh Johnson (2010-12) for most opening-day starts in club history. Scherzer is one of five pitchers since 1900 to record 10 or more strikeouts on opening day at least three times in their career.
This is the second time in as many years that Cy Young winners will face each other on opening day. Cleveland's Shane Bieber and Kansas City's Zack Greinke met last spring.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani, fresh off leading Japan to the World Baseball Classic title, will make his second straight opening day start for Los Angeles. Ohtani set career-highs last year in wins (15), ERA (2.33), strikeouts (216) and innings pitched (166). Ohtani and the Angels begin the season against Oakland left-hander Kyle Muller, who will be making his first opening-day start.
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole will join C.C. Sabathia, Jack Chesbro and Mel Stottlemyre as the only pitchers in team history to start four straight opening days when the Yankees host the San Francisco Giants.
Framber Valdez will start for World Series champion Houston when the Astros host the Chicago White Sox.
The youngest opening-day starter will be Cincinnati's Hunter Greene. The hard-throwing 23-year-old will match up with Mitch Keller and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Greene struck out 164 hitters in 125 2/3 innings as a rookie last season. Greene also pitched 7 1/3 no-hit innings against the Pirates last April, only to take the loss.
Washington's Patrick Corbin is hopeful that getting the start on opening day will lead to a better season than the ones he endured in 2021 and 2022. Corbin led the majors in losses each of the past two seasons, going 9-16 with a 5.82 ERA in 2021, then 6-19 with a 6.31 ERA last year. But with Stephen Strasburg still sidelined by injury and top prospect Cade Cavalli out for the year following Tommy John surgery, the Nationals are turning to one of the few pieces remaining from the team that won the 2019 World Series.
HOSKINS TO GET 2ND OPINION
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins will get a second opinion on his injured left knee but the team believes Hoskins will miss all of the 2023 season.
General manager Dave Dombrowski said while Hoskins will be re-evaluated, he would be "shocked" if the 30-year-old Hoskins did not require surgery to repair a torn ACL.
Hoskins injured the knee Thursday while fielding a grounder. The Phillies will turn to Darick Hall to replace Hoskins. Hall, 27, hit .250 with nine home runs and 16 RBIs in 41 games as a rookie in 2022.
"I do feel comfortable to say that we do like Darick Hall a lot," Dombrowski said. "We think he's ready to step up and be a big-league player."
GOING THE EXTRA MILE(S)
No more contract uncertainty for St. Louis Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas. The veteran right-hander signed a three-year, $55.75 million contract with the Cardinals that will carry through the 2025 season.
The new deal replaces his current contract, a four-year deal signed in February, 2019 that covered the 2020-23 seasons and was set to expire this fall. Mikolas will receive a $5 million signing bonus payable July 1 and will make $18.75 million in 2023 and $16 million in each of the following two seasons. There are several award bonuses available to Mikolas, including $250,000 for winning a Cy Young.
Mikolas is scheduled to make the second opening-day start of his career next Thursday when the Cardinals host Toronto. Mikolas went 12-13 with a 3.29 ERA last season while helping St. Louis to the NL Central title.
"Miles stands among the top pitchers in the game today, and has continued to provide a steady presence for us both in the rotation and inside the clubhouse," St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said in a statement.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Gerrit Cole's head was down as he walked toward the New York Yankees dugout at the end of his final spring training start on Friday when something — or make that someone — caught his eye:
Cole's 2-year-old son Caden.
The younger Cole made his way to the railing next to the dugout, forcing Cole to switch gears immediately from his typically hyper-intense demeanor on the mound to well, simply being dad. He patted Caden on the head and later got down on one knee to chat with Caden's younger brother Everett — born in January — and wife Amy close by.
"Honestly that's one of the top moments of my career," Cole told the YES Network after allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings with no walks and three strikeouts. "That was really special. I look forward to more of those moments."
AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston and Stephen Hawkins and AP National Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.