Matthew Kunkel, Contributor
In prior years this was an easy choice – Justin Verlander. But with Verlander not available this year, Dusty Baker should go to the other future Hall-of-Famer: Zack Greinke.
For Opening Day, you need a strong showing on the mound to set the tone for the season. Greinke has over 450 career starts, and has experience pitching on Opening Day from his time with Kansas City, Milwaukee and Arizona. Greinke has 6 All-Star appearances, 6 Gold Gloves, 1 Cy Young and over 200 career wins. For a team that has World Series aspirations, that’s the guy you want to set the tone.
Yes, his age is up and his velocity is down, but that doesn’t mean he still can’t dominate the mound. The 36-year-old only posted a 3-3 record last year, but he put forward some quality starts in July and August to help keep a struggling Astros team afloat. He finished the season posting a 9.0 strikeouts-per-nine and a career-low 1.2 walks-per-nine, and did so with inconsistent offensive support all season.
Framber Valdez and Lance McCullers might both have the better pitches and velocity, but none of those guys have even close to the experience to what Zach Greinke has. With opening night at the Oakland Coliseum against the A’s on ESPN, there’s no one else I’d rather have on the mound in the bottom of the first than Greinke.