What a way to begin: Heyward, Pujols among those who make an impact on opening day

Opening day lessons culled from TV, telephone and Twitter:

1. Jason Heyward lives up to the hype. After he caught the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron and received the loudest ovation of any Braves player in pregame introductions, the 20-year-old went to work. He didn’t take long to elicit another roar. In his first at-bat, Heyward crushed a 2-0 fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer off Carlos Zambrano. The moment was made even cooler when the TV cameras showed his proud parents in the stands celebrating with all those around them. 
 

I feel fine: Albert Pujols takes a few healthy cuts against the Reds.
I feel fine: Albert Pujols takes a few healthy cuts against the Reds.

2. Oh, no for Zambrano. After spending the spring talking about redemption, Big Z didn’t make it through two innings against the Braves. Zambrano gave up eight runs and retired only four hitters in his shortest outing since 2006. Now Zambrano needs consecutive shutouts to drop the resulting 54.00 ERA to under 4.00.

 
3. Albert Pujols is pretty good. Two homers, four hits, four runs. Guess that back problem that slowed him during spring training has gone away.
 
4. Roy Halladay is, too. This must have been what Halladay was hoping for when he was traded to the Phillies. After giving up an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman in his first inning with his new team, Halladay was picked up by his offense. The Phillies scored five in the fourth, two in the sixth and four on a Placido Polanco grand slam in the seventh. By the time Halladay’s day was done, he had an 11-1 lead.
 
5. Wow. If you haven’t seen Mark Buehrle’s falling-down, between-the-legs throw to nail Cleveland’s Lou Marson at first, here’s a link. Believe me, it’s worth your time.
 
6. No team needed an opening day victory more than the Mets. Most encouraging about their 7-1 rout of the Marlins was the performance of their two key guys. Johan Santana gave up one hit in six innings to earn the win and ease concerns about his fastball velocity during spring training. David Wright hit a two-run homer in the first and now needs only four more to equal his home output from a year ago.
 

7. There were no surprises in Kansas City, except perhaps for the beach-ball barrage that littered the field. The Tigers’ Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya had fastballs clocked at 100 mph and the Royals let down their ace, Zack Greinke. He left with a 4-2 lead after six innings, only to watch the Tigers score six in their next at-bat.

8. The Rangers will be careful with Vlad Guerrero. He still can hit —he broke up Shaun Marcum’s no-hitter with a solid single in the seventh — but his running remains suspect. After Guerrero went from first to third on Nelson Cruz’s game-tying, one-out double in the ninth, the Rangers sent in a pinch runner. As it turned out, the winning run could have walked in on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s drive to the wall. Guerrero finished 2-for-3 and ran his opening-day hitting streak to 11.

9. As big a deal as opening day is to fans, it’s not so much for players. Not if it’s some other team, anyway. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria spent part of his Monday promoting his new (and quite cool) commercial for New Era caps. Though the commercial debuted during the Red Sox-Yankees game Sunday night, Longoria was not tuned in. "I see enough baseball," he said. "As much as I see the Red Sox and the Yankees, I wasn’t too excited about watching the Yankees and Red Sox on Easter Sunday."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Opening day lessons culled from TV, telephone and Twitter:

1. Jason Heyward lives up to the hype. After he caught the ceremonial first pitch from Hank Aaron and received the loudest ovation of any Braves player in pregame introductions, the 20-year-old went to work. He didn’t take long to elicit another roar. In his first at-bat, Heyward crushed a 2-0 fastball over the right-field fence for a three-run homer off Carlos Zambrano. The moment was made even cooler when the TV cameras showed his proud parents in the stands celebrating with all those around them. 
 

I feel fine: Albert Pujols takes a few healthy cuts against the Reds.
I feel fine: Albert Pujols takes a few healthy cuts against the Reds.

2. Oh, no for Zambrano. After spending the spring talking about redemption, Big Z didn’t make it through two innings against the Braves. Zambrano gave up eight runs and retired only four hitters in his shortest outing since 2006. Now Zambrano needs consecutive shutouts to drop the resulting 54.00 ERA to under 4.00.

 
3. Albert Pujols is pretty good. Two homers, four hits, four runs. Guess that back problem that slowed him during spring training has gone away.
 
4. Roy Halladay is, too. This must have been what Halladay was hoping for when he was traded to the Phillies. After giving up an RBI double to Ryan Zimmerman in his first inning with his new team, Halladay was picked up by his offense. The Phillies scored five in the fourth, two in the sixth and four on a Placido Polanco grand slam in the seventh. By the time Halladay’s day was done, he had an 11-1 lead.
 
5. Wow. If you haven’t seen Mark Buehrle’s falling-down, between-the-legs throw to nail Cleveland’s Lou Marson at first, here’s a link. Believe me, it’s worth your time.
 
6. No team needed an opening day victory more than the Mets. Most encouraging about their 7-1 rout of the Marlins was the performance of their two key guys. Johan Santana gave up one hit in six innings to earn the win and ease concerns about his fastball velocity during spring training. David Wright hit a two-run homer in the first and now needs only four more to equal his home output from a year ago.
 

7. There were no surprises in Kansas City, except perhaps for the beach-ball barrage that littered the field. The Tigers’ Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya had fastballs clocked at 100 mph and the Royals let down their ace, Zack Greinke. He left with a 4-2 lead after six innings, only to watch the Tigers score six in their next at-bat.

8. The Rangers will be careful with Vlad Guerrero. He still can hit —he broke up Shaun Marcum’s no-hitter with a solid single in the seventh — but his running remains suspect. After Guerrero went from first to third on Nelson Cruz’s game-tying, one-out double in the ninth, the Rangers sent in a pinch runner. As it turned out, the winning run could have walked in on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s drive to the wall. Guerrero finished 2-for-3 and ran his opening-day hitting streak to 11.

9. As big a deal as opening day is to fans, it’s not so much for players. Not if it’s some other team, anyway. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria spent part of his Monday promoting his new (and quite cool) commercial for New Era caps. Though the commercial debuted during the Red Sox-Yankees game Sunday night, Longoria was not tuned in. "I see enough baseball," he said. "As much as I see the Red Sox and the Yankees, I wasn’t too excited about watching the Yankees and Red Sox on Easter Sunday."

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

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