The world champion Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres have one thing in common.
Both teams have reached the midpoint of season-opening schedules that have them playing games on 14 straight days before their first day off.
But one thing will be different among them Thursday in San Diego as the teams open a four-game series. The Padres will be celebrating their home opener, while the Braves are going on their first road trip.
“Given the short spring training, opening the season with 14 straight games presents some challenges,” Padres manager Bob Melvin said recently. “It’s tough on the rotation because some guys will have three starts before they’ve really been stretched out.”
The Padres opened the season with a five-man rotation. Atlanta manager Brian Snitker opted to go with six.
“I think an extra day’s rest for the starters during the first two weeks will play out over the season,” Snitker said during spring training.
Given the schedule, Melvin also considered a six-man rotation, and he could be looking for a sixth starter quite soon.
Right-hander Joe Musgrove, who threw the first no-hitter in Padres history just over a year ago, gets the honor of pitching the ballclub’s home opener on Thursday.
There’s no question that it is a reward for the San Diego native. His 11 wins, 3.18 ERA and 31 starts were San Diego’s best marks in a disappointing 2021 season.
Musgrove has been dependable. But beyond him and recent addition Sean Manaea, the rotation has some questions.
Mike Clevinger opened the season on the injured list with a knee strain, and Blake Snell was a last-minute scratch from his first start when the adductor muscle that bothered him in 2021 tightened up on him while he was warming up.
Snell could join Clevinger on the injured list Thursday, possibly opening the door for former No. 1 draft pick MacKenzie Gore to make his major league debut over the weekend. MLB.com lists Friday’s starter for the Padres as TBD.
First things first. Right-hander Charlie Morton will start for the Braves on Thursday to open a seven-game West Coast swing that ends with three games at Dodger Stadium, meaning a reunion with 2020 MVP Freddie Freeman, who spent his first 12 seasons with Atlanta.
Morton has often been a thorn in the Padres’ side, with a career 6-1 record and 2.09 ERA against them in nine starts. He has allowed the Padres only 35 hits and 23 walks while striking out 52 in 56 innings. And he’s 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts covering 17 1/3 innings at Petco Park.
Musgrove also has a sharp history at Petco Park. His ERA in his first season back home was 2.92. And his career ERA at Petco Park is 2.81.
Against the Braves, Musgrove is 2-1 with a 5.52 ERA in six starts covering 29 1/3 innings.
“It lined up with Joe starting the home opener for a reason,” said Melvin. “He deserved this opportunity.”
Both Musgrove and Morton won their first starts of the season. Musgrove gave up two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts in six innings in Arizona. Morton allowed two runs on two hits and a walk in 5 1/3 innings against the Cincinnati Reds on April 8.
–Field Level Media