Big League Stew - MLB

This and every weekday a.m. during the baseball season, let's rise and shine together to recap the most recent diamond doings. Today's roll call starts with a look back at opening night, when the world ^%$@! champion Phillies unfurled their World Series championship banner and then unraveled against Derek Lowe and the invading Braves. 

(Only real) game of the Day: Braves 4, Phillies 1

Party poopers: The A-T-L roughed up Cole Hamels' understudy Brett Myers for three home runs, including one by rookie outfielder Jordan Schafer, who went deep in his first major league at-bat and singled in his second. And to think, Schafer wasn't allowed on the field about this time last season.

Year makes a difference: Nearly 365 days ago, Schafer was suspended 50 games in the minor leagues for being linked to the use of human growth hormone, sidetracking what had become a meteoric rise through the Braves system. In 2007, Schafer hit .312 with 49 doubles, 10 triples, 15 homers and 23 stolen bases in Class A to zoom from Atlanta's 27th-best prospect to top Brave. After getting caught doing whatever — the details are sketchy — he hit an ordinary .269 in Class AA last season. But Schafer took off in this year's spring training and manager Bobby Cox took notice, bring him up with the big league club.

On air: Schafer became the 99th player in major league history to homer in his first career at-bat, giving the Braves a 4-0 lead in the second with a long blast to center.

"It was a great feeling," Schafer said. "As soon as I hit it, I thought, 'Oh, Wow.' ... I don't even think my feet hit the ground as I was running around the bases. I felt like I was floating. It was awesome."

Schafer singled in his next at-bat and was intentionally walked his next time up. Talk about respect. The kid, if he could have heard the TV broadcast, would have been brought back to Earth by ESPN's Jon Miller repeatedly calling him "Logan Schafer" at one point. A friend of yours from college, Jon?

Guilt by association: Wonderful story, right? Well, Schafer never has admitted to using HGH, or any other performance-enhancer, but he did cop to hanging with the wrong crowd. The admission won't make one forgive and forget, or even understand, but it's what we got. Hey, who else is ambivalent about this kid?

He'll do: The Braves missed all of the off-season fun as deal after deal fell through. Jake Peavy, no dice. A.J. Burnett, no dice. Rafael Furcal, no dice. Ken Griffey, who's as old as his old man is now, no dice. And so on. But GM Frank Wren hooked Derek Lowe, even though it cost $60 million, and got an instant return on the investment with eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball. Epic opening-day performance, says

Ninth circle inning of hell: The Phillies awoke for a rally after Lowe left but closer Mike Gonzalez jammed the door shut. ... Might have caught someone's foot in there. ... Yeah, try again. ... There ya go. Can lefty closers be trusted? Three of the top nine save guys of all time are lefties (John Franco, Billy Wagner and Randy Myers) but it's quite a gulf until the next southpaw (Dave Righetti — No. 27). Then, Sparky Lyle at No. 29, Mitch "Hair on Fire" Williams at No. 42 and Everyday Guardado tied at No. 45. No, I don't trust the left-hander.

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Photo of the Day

"If the Phanatic's in my seat again, I'm not waiting for the usher this time."

Their dugout overstuffed with trophies and swag from the talk show circuit, the Phillies take their seats for the game in the left-field stands Sunday night. Seriously, this is how the Phils entered the playing field for pregame ceremonies, which included manager Charlie Manuel hoisting the banner indicating who won the World Series in 2008. Rings on Wednesday.

* * *

Feelin' Rundown (rounding up Sunday's loose news):

Giants 3, Dodgers 1 (exhibition): Is there another sport that plays a spring training game the same day it opens the season for real? Not to offend hockey, but it seems a very NHL thing for MLB to do. But baseball makes such a big deal about the Phillies and Braves opening the season that they forgot to erase this unnecessary practice game from the rolls?

Royals at White Sox, ppd. (bad weather Monday — maybe): If you're headed down to U.S. Cellular Field for the Royals and Sox, stop. Turn around. Put the car back in the garage. They postponed the game on the threat of wintry weather and will try again Tuesday.

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Morning Juice's Big Questions and Bigger Answers of 2009:

Q: Will Chipper Jones hit .500 this season?
At least.

Q: Because of a mid-season interleague trade, will Jake Peavy pitch for both the AL and NL All-Star teams?
A: He'll take the loss for the AL and get a no-decision for the NL.

Q: Who will the Rays of 2009 be?
A: The Rays, with special mention to the Royals.

Q: How do the Rays look at third this season?
A: How do you think?

Q: Can the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all squeeze into the playoffs somehow?
A: Don't put anything past ESPN. The scenario somehow involves a hurricane and Bud Selig throwing up his hands.

Q: Did someone release the Rally Monkey from its cage?
A: My nose says yes.

Q: Is R.A. Dickey still one of the league's funniest names?
A: Thankfully he made the Twins roster.

Q: Will the Pirates still be in Pittsburgh by the end of the year?
A: No, they will be optioned to Class AA.

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Words of Mouth:

"Oh my goodness. I am heartbroken that we lost a game. As long as we win the next two. Especially Wednesday. That's the one we definitely need to win, no doubt about that. Ring day." — Jimmy Rollins

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