Opening Day for 2018 in the Bull League has finally arrived. All teams are in action, with every team looking to a strong start as the long season gets underway today.
Notable matchups for today include:
LOUISVILLE SLUGGERS at MONTREAL METROS
Last year’s Sandy Koufax Award winning pitcher, Judson Martel, is back after an arm injury that ended his 2017 campaign early. Despite missing the last month of the season, he ended last year with the league’s top pitching award. But it was a long recovery, and the 31-year-old right-hander dropped his only two Spring Training games, finishing the preseason with an 0-2 record, and an ERA of 18.00.
The Sluggers — formerly the Battle Creek Attack — are hoping a new look and new location will inject some life into their roster for 2018. But those hopes are under a cloud as they begin the year without first baseman and DH Setsuo Kimura, who ruptured his achilles tendon in a spring game against Ohio back on April 20. The 7-time All-Star has been replaced in the lineup by 35-year-old bench outfielder Bobby Turner.
ST. PETERSBURG ADMIRALS at SEATTLE SALTS
The Admirals, who moved from Anchorage last year, will take former division rivals Seattle in what is sure to be an epic pitching battle. Last year’s AEL Sandy Koufax Award winner and Rookie of the Year, Jose “Flinch” Soto, will try to extend his winning streak of 15 games, started on his debut last year. Soto has not lost a game since joining the Bull League, going undefeated in 22 starts.
The Admirals lineup is mainly intact from last year, and it seemingly worked well for them as they made a playoff appearance for the second year in a row, and set a club record for wins (61) and win percentage (.610). But they had been unable to beat Calgary, the eventual Bull Cup winners.
For Seattle, who set a league record for wins last year (63), right-hander Aaron Reed will get the start, and former Anchorage outfielder Ricky Jalapeno will take the leadoff spot against his former team. He will find batting order support from Salts veterans Hoshi Mizuguchi, and Jorge Garzes.
DALLAS DEPUTIES at CALGARY INFERNO
The 2018 Deputies look a little different than the 2017 Deputies, but they are still not expected to contend for a playoff spot this year. However, they are anxious to try out former Calgary Inferno southpaw Fernando Latorre against his old team when they open their 4-game series tonight. Latorre held a record of 37-22 after 6 seasons in Calgary, compiling an ERA of 3.88 and tallying 545 strikeouts. Dallas hopes to parlay that into some wins this season, building on their club record 42 last year. They will need veterans like catcher Jerry Bravo and former Rimouski Fighting Moose’ third baseman Joe Street to have career years to have a hope at a wildcard.
Calgary looks as dominant as ever, after picking up a highly touted international free agent, Takahide Higuchi, during the offseason. They will lean on their Bull Cup champions from last year, like Danny Huertero, who had a 24-game hitting streak, and sluggers Cody Martin, Logans Run and Israel Medina, who totaled 90 home runs in 2017. These bash triplets are in their career primes and are ready to swing for the fences against Dallas pitchers.
Other Opening Day matches include:
DENVER DANGER at ARIZONA COWBOYS
Arizona can’t wait to unleash top-rates international free agent signing Tak-keung Yang on the Bull League. The power-hitter could bring an important element that has been absent since the Cowboys started as a 2012 expansion team.
NEVADA SPEEDERS at MIAMI STORM
Nevada is another team that signed an international free agent with potential to make an impact. Chitoji Yamada will patrol left field, but brings a big power swing that will offer run support to the struggling pitching staff.
RIMOUSKI FIGHTING MOOSE at MINNEAPOLIS RAVENS
Four-time Sandy Koufax Award winner, Ricky Rodriguez, will likely start game 1 for the Ravens as he continues his march towards the Bull League Hall of Fame and future record book entries.
NEW YORK DRAGONS at OHIO OXEN
Ohio’s new hitter-friendly stadium in Cincinatti, where the team relocated to, could prove a boon for their power-laden lineup. But the Dragons also have some big sluggers, like Victor Jimenez, Tony Cruz, Jake Jett and former Toronto DH Gula Kareem.
CHICAGO PIT BULLS at TORONTO NOMADS
The Nomads have been in rebuilding and retooling mode, dropping high salary players where ever they can. Their excellent pitching duo of Alex Medina and Knuckles Malone start the season healthy, which could be really helpful if their younger, newer players can find some offense.
CALIFORNIA TIDALS at NORFOLK SHARKS
The Sharks are looking lethal this season and should plow through the Tidals without much trouble. Look for Danny Sanchez and Earl MacPherson to remain solid.
BOSTON BRAWLERS at DETROIT MOTORHEADS
The Brawlers were among the top home run teams in the Lake League last season, and look to keep pressing that power advantage in 2018, especially over a weaker team like Detroit. But it may not be as easy as they think: Detroit picked up former Calgary ace Matthew Rendall in the offseason, and count Dennis Guppy and Danny Rosa among their more productive offensive players.