Dan's Dugout: Opening Day brings several surprises • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Opening Day brings several surprises

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What a difference a day makes.

Spring training sensation Masahiro Tanaka got tagged by Tampa Bay on Opening Day

Spring training sensation
Masahiro Tanaka got tagged by Tampa Bay on Opening Day

The Yankees win 24 exhibition games, Masahiro Tanaka posts an 0.38 ERA, and then the team falls flat on Opening Day against the weakest team in the American League East.

Only 31,000 fans – a meager turnaround – came to Tropicana Field to watch the Rays make quick work of Tanaka, who has now started four straight Yankee openers.

Hampered by severe payroll restrictions, Tampa Bay usually gets by with pitching, speed, and defense. But not this time. They beat the Yankees, who led the Grapefruit League in home runs, by a healthy 7-3 margin.

The outcome proves once again that spring training means nothing. This year, more than ever, with teams stripped to the bone by the World Baseball Classic.

The Detroit Tigers lost 15 players and several other clubs sent at least 10 players to the much-hyped, poorly-scheduled series. That’s no way for major-league managers to pick their 25-man rosters or organize their pitching staffs.

At least the San Francisco Giants kept their best in tow all spring. Madison Bumgarner, hero of last

Madison Bumgarner is the first pitcher to homer twice on Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner is the first pitcher to homer twice on Opening Day

year’s National League wild-card game against the New York Mets, got off to a great Opening Day start by fanning 12 men in seven innings and providing his own support with two home runs.

No pitcher in baseball history had ever homered twice on Opening Day.

Figuring the game was in the bag, the Giants entrusted the lead to newly-signed closer Mark Melancon. He did not fare well.

Signed to a four-year, $48 million contract that was excessive by any standard, the righthanded relief ace provided relief only to the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks, who rallied to win, 6-5.

That was not how Giants fans wanted to open this season – not after watching their bullpen blow a team-record 30 save opportunities last summer.

Bartolo Colon tries to throttle his former teammates Wednesday

Bartolo Colon tries to throttle his former teammates Wednesday

With many more Opening Day games to be played over the next two days, many more surprises should surface too. Can’t wait to see Bartolo Colon, a 15-game winner for the Mets last year, pitch against his old club Wednesday. The Braves signed the veteran righthander, pushing 44, in his quest to top the Latino wins record held by Dennis Martinez (245).

Elsewhere in baseball:

Wonder whether the career of Melvin Upton, Jr. is mercifully over following his release by the Toronto Blue Jays . . .

With Seth Lugo and Steven Matz both opening on the DL, Mets fans have to worry about the durability of their youthful five-man rotation . . .

Former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, a three-time All-Star who’s now 41, will rejoin the Los Angeles Dodgers on a minor-league contract and try to work his way back after being out of the majors since 2008 . . .

Toronto plucked a good man off the scrap heap in versatile Chris Coughlan, released by the Phillies at age 31 . . .

San Francisco will miss valuable reliever Will Smith, sidelined by Tommy John surgery . . .

Pittsburgh third baseman Jung Ho Kang is on the restricted list after his visa request was denied in the wake of multiple legal problems . . .

Veterans who failed to make major-league rosters this spring include Jimmy Rollins (Giants), James Loney (Rangers), Joe Nathan (Nationals), Michael Bourn and Chris Johnson (Orioles), and Kelvin Jepsen (Diamondbacks) . . .

Jimmy Rollins could be done after his release in San Francisco

Jimmy Rollins could be done after his release in San Francisco

Congrats to Toronto manager John Gibbons, given a contract extension through 2019, with a club option for 2020.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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