1 of 5 | Reigning American League MVP Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees will host the San Francisco Giants in their season opener at 1:05 p.m. EDT Thursday at Yankee Stadium in New York. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI | License Photo
MIAMI, March 30 (UPI) -- Washington, D.C., and New York City will host the first two games of the 2023 MLB season Thursday afternoon. Fans will be presented with a quicker, action-packed play style this year because of off-season rule changes.
The Washington Nationals will host the Atlanta Braves at 1:05 p.m. EDT at Nationals Park. The New York Yankees will welcome the San Francisco Giants at the same time at Yankee Stadium.
Both games will be available on local TV networks and on MLB.TV and MLB Network. The World Series champion Houston Astros will host the Chicago White Sox in the first nationally televised game of the season at 7 p.m. Thursday on ESPN.
"It's a balance of emotions," Yankees ace Gerrit Cole told the YES Network this week when asked about his upcoming opening day start.
"You want to enjoy the pageantry. It's very special for players who have not had an opening day. ... It's the beginning of every baseball fan's and every baseball player's calendar."
All 30 MLB teams will be in action for season openers Thursday afternoon through Thursday night. The full opening day schedule is listed below.
The Astros are favored to repeat as champions. The Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Yankees and New York Mets also are expected to contend for the title.
Juan Soto's San Diego Padres, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s Toronto Blue Jays, the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals are among other Top 10 championship favorites.
Baseball stars became mostly acclimated to rule changes throughout spring training, but fans might need some practice for the new game speed when watching their favorite players.
The changes, which include time limits for pitchers and hitters to prepare for their exchanges, larger bases and limits to defensive shifts, were announced in September.
MLB's new rules, which players say favor offense, led to nearly 30 minutes being shaved off of spring training game times. Similar shorter games are expected in the regular, 162-game season.
Fans could notice the abbreviated innings most when they take bathroom or concession stand breaks, potentially causing them to miss more game action than they did in the past.
Clocks were added to each MLB stadium to show batters and pitchers how much time they will be allowed to break between getting into their batting stances and releasing pitches.
Hitters must have both feet in the batter's box before an outfield clock ticks down to 8 seconds, or they will receive an automatic strike.
Pitchers now have just 15 seconds to throw each pitch when bases are empty or the batter will receive a called ball. Pitchers are allowed 20 seconds to pitch when a runner is on base.
Some pitchers, like Mets star Max Scherzer, attempted to weaponize the tempo rules as a way to keep hitters off-balance in spring training. The three-time Cy Young Award winner adjusted his delivery times to trick hitters into awkward, unprepared exchanges.
Miami Marlins outfielder Jazz Chisholm Jr., who sometimes struggled with the rule changes at the plate, said during spring training he will attempt to make pitchers rush as a way to prompt easy-to-hit pitches.
Chisholm, who switched from the infield to the outfield this off-season, was the feature athlete on this year's MLB The Show video game. He will be among the Marlins players to watch this season, along with ace pitcher Sandy Alcantara.
Players to watch
Alcantara, Scherzer and Mets teammate Justin Verlander, Corbin Burnes of the Milwaukee Brewers, Spencer Strider of the Braves and Zac Gallen of the Arizona Diamondbacks are among the expected Cy Young Award contenders from the National League.
Gerrit Cole, Jacob deGrom of the Texas Rangers, Alek Manoah of the Blue Jays, Dylan Cease of the Chicago White Sox and Shane Bieber of the Cleveland Guardians are top preseason contenders for American League Cy Young Award honors.
Cole, Burnes, deGrom, Manoah, Cease, Gallen, Bieber, Scherzer and Alcantara all will be in action on opening day.
Scherzer and Alcantara, the 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner, will pitch in the same game. The first pitch of the Mets and Marlins matchup is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. at loanDepot park in Miami.
Pitcher-slugger Shohei Ohtani, who just led Japan to a World Baseball Classic title in Miami, will take the mound Thursday when the Los Angeles Angels face the Oakland Athletics in Oakland, Calif.
Ohtani, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez, Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. are expected to contend for American League MVP honors.
Soto, Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr., Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, Phillies shortstop Trea Turner and Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr. are among the favorites for National League MVP honors.
All of those stars should be healthy for first pitch. Other MLB teams will enter the season without their best weapons. Mets star closer Edwin Diaz, who injured his right knee two weeks ago at the World Baseball Classic, will miss the entire season.
The Astros will start the season with an obvious void in their infield. All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve, who broke his right thumb at the World Baseball Classic, is expected to miss two months of action.
Cincinnati Reds veteran Joey Votto, Astros outfielder Michael Brantley, Yankees pitcher Luis Severino and Angels catcher Max Stassi are among other injured players who won't be in opening day lineups.
All times EDT
Braves at Nationals at 1:05 p.m. on MLB Network/MLB.TV
Giants at Yankees at 1:05 p.m. on MLB Network/MLB.TV
Orioles at Red Sox at 2:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Brewers at Cubs at 2:20 p.m. on MLB.TV
Tigers at Rays at 3:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Phillies at Rangers at 4:05 p.m. on ESPN+ and MLB Network/MLB.TV
Twins at Royals at 4:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Mets at Marlins at 4:10 p.m. on MLB Network/MLB.TV
Pirates at Reds at 4:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Blue Jays at Cardinals at 4:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Rockies at Padres at 4:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
White Sox at Astros at 7 p.m. on ESPN
Angels at Athletics at 10:07 p.m. on MLB Network/MLB.TV
Diamondbacks at Dodgers at 10:10 p.m. on MLB.TV
Guardians at Mariners at 10:10 p.m. on MLB Network/MLB.TV