Opening Day arriving to fans’ relief, Braves begin title defense

Apr 4, 2022; Port Charlotte, Florida, USA; Atlanta Braves center fielder Adam Duvall (14) catches a fly ball in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during spring training at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

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April 5 (Reuters) — A baseball season once in doubt kicks off on Thursday, as the Atlanta Braves look to defend their World Series title and the fearsome Los Angeles Dodgers aim to fight their way back to the top.

Fans feared they might not hear the words «Play ball!» this year after Major League Baseball (MLB) locked out its players in December and in March canceled the start of the regular season. read more

After nine tense days of deadlock steeped in bitter acrimony, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced a detente had been reached, beginning his press conference with an apology to fans and an olive branch to players.

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«One of the things I’m supposed to do is promote a good relationship with our players. I’ve tried to do that. I think that I have not been successful in that,» he said. read more

The league will make up the games missed after the original Opening Day, set for March 31, had to be delayed, while Spring Training games began under a revised schedule March 17. read more

«Fortunately, the lockout only cut short Spring Training, which will quickly be forgotten once the full regular season begins,» Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert and creative director at Pinnacle Sports Marketing, told Reuters. «All will be forgiven by fans hungry for baseball.»

The season kicks off with a handful of changes, including the implementation of the «Ohtani rule,» referring to the double-threat American League MVP Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels. The rule allows a starting pitcher to continue to serve as «designated hitter,» even if he is replaced on the mound.

The change coincides with the implementation of a universal designated hitter rule, with the position previously absent from the National League, and a plan to allow umpires to make announcements explaining replay review decisions. read more


Reigning champions the Atlanta Braves kick off their title defense without some of the key playmakers behind their 4-2 triumph over the Houston Astros in the best-of-seven Fall Classic.

World Series MVP Jorge Soler, whose three-run homer in Game Six fueled the Braves’ 7-0 Game Six win over the Astros, went to the Miami Marlins in free agency. read more

«There’s gonna be a lot of new guys,» manager Brian Snitker told MLB Network. «You ingratiate guys in here that you have that are new and it’s a pretty solid corps here of young guys.»

Beloved first baseman Freddie Freeman signed with National League runners-up Los Angeles Dodgers in March for a reported six-year, $162 million deal after 12 seasons with the Braves. read more

The former MVP will join an array of All-Stars on the fearsome team including right fielder Mookie Betts, who told reporters that he is completely healthy after a hip injury limited his production last season, bent on hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy after winning in 2020.

The Dodgers are tipped by oddsmakers to win it all this year with the support of shortstop Trea Turner — who led the majors with a .328 batting average and 195 hits in 2021.

«We are winning the World Series this year — put it on record,» Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told «The Dan Patrick Show.» «That’s our focus, that’s our goal… we are winning the World Series if our starting staff stays healthy.»

Another top contender, the Toronto Blue Jays, will enjoy a full home season at the Rogers Centre for the first time since 2019, where super-slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is expected to dazzle again after producing 48 homers last year, a figure matched only by Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez.

MLB Opening Day will take place on Thursday.

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Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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