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Openers Feature Strasburg, Rivalries

  • The field is painted for opening day as Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, throws batting practice at Turner Field on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies on Monday.  (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

    The field is painted for opening day as Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, throws batting practice at Turner Field on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies on Monday. (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

  • A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston.  (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )

    A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )

  • A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston.  (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )

    A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )

  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg stands in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on Friday, March 29, 2013, in Washington. The Yankees won 4-2. Strasburg is expected to start opening on Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg stands in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on Friday, March 29, 2013, in Washington. The Yankees won 4-2. Strasburg is expected to start opening on Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

  • Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

    Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

  • Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

    Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

  • Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

    Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

    Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

  • Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

  • Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

    Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)

  • Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., left, slides into home plate to score on a single by Jose Iglesias as Minnesota Twins catcher Danny Lehmann gathers in the late throw during the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday, March 28, 2013. The Red Sox won 6-1. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., left, slides into home plate to score on a single by Jose Iglesias as Minnesota Twins catcher Danny Lehmann gathers in the late throw during the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday, March 28, 2013. The Red Sox won 6-1. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • An Atlanta Braves stadium worker washes down seats in the upper deck Sunday, March 31, 2013, in preparation for opening day at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies  on Monday. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

    An Atlanta Braves stadium worker washes down seats in the upper deck Sunday, March 31, 2013, in preparation for opening day at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies on Monday. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

  • The field is painted for opening day as Atlanta Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, left, throws batting practice at Turner Field on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies on Monday.  (AP Photo/ Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)
  • A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston.  (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )
  • A Houston Astros fan runs through the rain outside the stadium before the Astros' season opener baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston.  (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool )
  • Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg stands in the dugout during an exhibition baseball game against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park on Friday, March 29, 2013, in Washington. The Yankees won 4-2. Strasburg is expected to start opening on Monday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  • Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
  • Cincinnati Reds grounds crew members prepare the field ready at Great American Ball Park for Monday's opening day baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels, Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Russell Martin balances a baseball during a team baseball workout at PNC Park, Sunday, March 31, 2013 in preparation for the season opener Monday against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
  • Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)
  • Houston Astros starting pitcher Lucas Harrell puts his arm around bench coach Eduardo Perez as they walk into the stadium after appearing a fan pep rally before the season opener against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, March 31, 2013, in Houston. (AP Photo/ Houston Chronicle, Smiley N. Pool)
  • Boston Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr., left, slides into home plate to score on a single by Jose Iglesias as Minnesota Twins catcher Danny Lehmann gathers in the late throw during the eighth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game in Fort Myers, Fla., Thursday, March 28, 2013. The Red Sox won 6-1. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • An Atlanta Braves stadium worker washes down seats in the upper deck Sunday, March 31, 2013, in preparation for opening day at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Braves play their season opener against the Phillies  on Monday. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton)

The Kansas City Royals have been absent from the playoffs since the day Billy Butler was born. They’ve barely had a winning season in the last two decades. They’ve often lost 100 games in a year.

And yet, buoyed by the best record in spring training, hope abounds — for the Royals, for most everybody putting on a big league uniform.

“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be better,” said Butler, the Royals’ All-Star slugger. “How much better that is? I’m not a mind reader. I’m not a projector.”

Ah, opening day.

The hot dogs taste better, the boxscores mean more and most every team thinks it’s just a break or two away from reaching the World Series.

A dozen games were set for today across the majors. Star pitchers Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg and Adam Wainwright try to get off to great starts, old rivalries are renewed at Yankee Stadium and Dodger Stadium, and a quirky interleague schedule unfolds.

No snow is in the forecast for any ballpark on April Fools’ Day, but freezing temperatures are expected at Target Field in Minnesota when Verlander and the AL champion Tigers take on the Twins.

“It’s going to be cold but I’ve pitched in that kind of weather before,” Verlander said. “I don’t think about it. It’s always cold in Detroit on opening day.”

Long the site of baseball’s traditional opener, Cincinnati was going to have a new look today. That’s when Josh Hamilton and his new Los Angeles Angels teammates visit Cincinnati in the first interleague matchup this season.

The Astros’ move left 15 teams in each league, meaning an AL vs. NL matchup most every day this season.

“It is very strange,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

At Dodger Stadium, Matt Cain starts for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants when they play Los Angeles in the century-old rivalry.

It will mark the 64th season at the microphone for Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. Heck, Tigers manager Jim Leyland seems like a mere pup by comparison, now starting his 50th year in pro ball.

All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez is sidelined for the Dodgers. Around the majors, third basemen Chase Headley of San Diego, David Freese of St. Louis and Brett Lawrie of Toronto will begin the season on the disabled list.

Mets third baseman David Wright plans to be in the lineup at Citi Field to take on San Diego. He hurt his ribcage at the World Baseball Classic.

“I feel good physically,” Wright said. “It would have been nice to have maybe a few more at-bats toward the end, but I didn’t have that luxury.”

Tomorrow, there are two more openers — Baltimore at Tampa Bay, and Cleveland at revamped Toronto.

All 30 teams will pay tribute to the 20 children and six adults killed last December at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Players, managers, coaches and umpires will wear a memorial patch through tomorrow that includes the seal of Newtown, a black ribbon and 26 stars, and there will be a moment of silence at each stadium.

Seven weeks after teams broke out the bats and balls, players seemed ready to get going.

“I’m really prepared. Well, finally spring training is over, it was a long one,” Seattle ace Felix Hernandez said yesterday, a day before his start in Oakland.

“It’s another season. We’re a different team. It’s always special, opening day, not for me but for all the guys,” he said.