MLB Opening Day 2023 recap: Baseball season gets underway with new rules

Major League Baseball's 2023 season began with all 30 teams in action on opening day Thursday, the first game of a marathon 162-game campaign that every team hopes takes them deep into October.

MLB's new rules took center stage, with the pitch clock keeping games tighter and players getting penalized for infractions for the first time.

Reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge homered in the New York Yankees' win, starting 2023 with a bang after signing a $360 million contract in the offseason. Elsewhere, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros lost their opener against the Chicago White Sox.

Here's a look back at how opening day unfolded:

Angels blow Shohei Ohtani’s stellar start

Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the first inning against Oakland.
Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch in the first inning against Oakland.

Shohei Ohtani struck out 10 in six scoreless innings against the Athletics on Thursday, but the Angels only scored one run and blew their lead in the eighth inning of an eventual 2-1 loss.

Ohtani was dominant, striking out 10 in six scoreless innings and didn’t give up his first hit until lhe fourth. Jimmy Herget got through the seventh for Los Angeles but Aaron Loup ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up a leadoff single and a game-tying RBI double to Tony Kemp. Aledmys Diaz singled in the go-ahead run and Oakland threatened to add more, but Ryan Tepera induced a double play to end the threat.

At the plate, Ohtani went 1-for-3 with an intentional walk. The 28-year-old two-way star is a free agent after the 2023 season and just won the World Baseball Classic with Japan, earning tournament MVP honors.

– Jesse Yomtov

Ty France’s homer lifts Mariners over Guardians

With the game scoreless in the bottom of the eighth, Seattle’s Ty France hit a three-run home run off Cleveland’s James Karinchak, which held up for a Mariners 3-0 victory on Thursday.

Seattle's Luis Castillo and Cleveland's Shane Bieber had traded zeroes, with each starter tossing six scoreless innings. Castillo didn't walk any batters and only gave up one hit. Andrés Muñoz got the final three outs for the Mariners, working around two hits.

The Mariners ended their 21-year postseason drought in 2022, which had been the longest active drought in North American pro sports.

Rockies spoil Padres' coming-out party

C.J. Cron homered twice and drove in five runs for the Colorado Rockies, who beat San Diego 7-2 on Thursday to dampen opening night of the most anticipated season in Padres history at chilly, wet Petco Park.

Expectations are so high for the superstar-laden Padres, who made a stirring run to the NL Championship Series last year, that some in the sellout crowd of 45,103 booed when left fielder Juan Soto let Bryant’s fly ball fall in for an RBI single in the sixth. There were more boos when Cron and Montero went back-to-back in the seventh.

Xander Bogaerts, who signed a $280 million, 11-year free agent deal in December, went 3 for 4 with two doubles in his Padres debut. Manny Machado, who finished second in NL MVP voting last year, had a sacrifice fly and a single. Soto, acquired last year at the trade deadline from Washington, went 0-for-4.

– Associated Press

Dodgers start 2023 with win vs. Diamondbacks

Will Smith went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs, James Outman homered and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-2 on Thursday night in their season opener.

Julio Urías, last year’s NL ERA leader at 2.16, got the victory in his first career opening-day start. The left-hander allowed four hits and two runs in six innings. He struck out six.

The Dodgers won a franchise-record 111 games last season only to lose to the rival San Diego Padres in their National League Division Series. They bid farewell to Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger in the offseason, helping make the roster a bit younger.

– Associated Press

Hunter Renfroe makes wild no-look catch

It's only opening day, but Angels right fielder Hunter Renfroe made a grab against the Athletics that could go down as the most impressive play of the 2023 season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Renfroe got turned around by Jace Pederson's line drive, threw his left arm out in desperation and amazingly, had the ball end up in his glove for a no-look catch.

Pitcher Shohei Ohtani was visibly amazed by Renfroe's play in the out Angels debut.

Shohei Ohtani's contract year begins 

Coming off his MVP performance in the World Baseball Classic, Shohei Ohtani started his 2023 MLB campaign on Thursday against the Oakland Athletics by striking out in his first at-bat and then tossing a scoreless first inning.

Ohtani held the A's hitless through three innings and his single in the top of the fourth was his first hit of the new season.

Ohtani finished runner up in AL MVP and fourth in Cy Young voting last season, hitting 34 homers as a designated hitter with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts in 28 starts as a pitcher. The league’s MVP in 2021, Ohtani is a free agent after this season and could fetch the biggest contract in baseball history.

Andrew Vaughn the hero as White Sox beat Astros

Andrew Vaughn hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the top of the ninth and the White Sox held on for a 3-2 opening day win over the defending champion Astros on Thursday in Houston.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the seventh, when the Astros took a 1-0 lead on a wild pitch by White Sox lefty Aaron Bummer. Chicago tied it in the top of the eighth on Yasmani Grandal’s solo homer, before Vaughn’s go-ahead hit off All-Star reliever Ryan Pressly.

The Astros had won their previous 10 opening day games, dating back to 2013.

Yordan Alvarez hit his first homer of the year in the bottom of the ninth to cut the deficit, but Houston was unable to pull back another run..

Astros raise World Series banner, Megan Thee Stallion throws first pitch

The Houston Astros celebrated their 2022 World Series title on Thursday, raising their second championship banner in six years at Minute Maid Park.

Framber Valdez got the start against the Chicago White Sox, who countered with ace Dylan Cease to open the 2023 campaign.

Houston native Megan Thee Stallion threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the game.

George Springer, Blue Jays outlast Cardinals

George Springer had five hits and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. drove in three runs as the Toronto Blue Jays beat St. Louis 10-9 on Thursday despite the Cardinals’ Tyler O’Neill tying a major league record by homering on opening day for the fourth straight season.

Springer was 5 for 6 with five singles in the fourth five-hit game of his big league career to go along with a six-game game for Houston at Oakland in May 2018. Springer combined with Baltimore’s Adley Rutschman to become the first pair of players with five hits each on opening day since at least 1901.

“It’s awesome, obviously you want to start off good,” Springer said. “It’s only one game. But, I’ll take all the hits I can get.”

– Associated Press

Another Mets opening day win

The New York Mets beat the Miami Marlins 5-2 on Thursday, improving to 41-21 on opening day in franchise history, the best winning percentage of any team in baseball.

Brandon Nimmo hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to break a 3-3 tie, finishing the game with three RBI. The Mets led 3-0 in the sixth, but the Marlins evened it up on Garrett Cooper’s two-run homer off Max Scherzer, who wound up getting the win with six strikeouts in six innings of work.

With Edwin Diaz injured, David Robertson got the save opportunity for the Mets, retiring all three batters he faced in the ninth.

Reigning NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara didn’t factor into the decision, walking four with two strikeouts in 5.2 innings for the Marlins

Rangers rally to win slugfest vs. Phillies

Robbie Grossman and Brad Miller homered in a big comeback for Texas after prized acquisition Jacob deGrom struggled in his debut, and the Rangers beat the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies 11-7 in the season opener Thursday.

Grossman, a free-agent addition who earned the starting left field job in spring training, hit a three-run homer that tied the game at 5-5 in the middle of a nine-run outburst in the fourth inning. An inning later, Miller became the first Rangers player in 11 years to homer in consecutive season openers. His two-run shot made it 11-6.

Aaron Nola, the 29-year-old right-hander making his sixth and maybe final opening-day start for the Phillies, also allowed five runs in 3 ⅔ innings. Nola is in the final year of his contract and discussions about an extension ended just before the start of the season.

– Associated Press

Pitch clock makes dreary game palatable

WASHINGTON – There’s a new game within the game at your local ballpark, and doggone if it isn’t pretty compelling.

On a frigid day where bright sunshine belied the miserable baseball conditions, a trio of timers positioned around the field at Nationals Park provided historic accompaniment to an artless struggle.

Through all that, the crowd was largely still on hand at game’s end. And perhaps most important, even if the game stretched a bit long, by the middle innings, one thing was abundantly clear.

The end was in sight.

See, it’s not the 12-11 games that caused MLB to move quickly toward a pitch clock. It’s the 3-1 games where nothing happens yet it still takes three and a half hours to contest. And on this day, the clock effect was palpable from the get-go.

– Gabe Lacques

Walks doom Reds in loss to Pirates

On the first day of the 2023 season, as the Cincinnati Reds attempt to turn the chapter from last year’s 100-loss season, they have a 0-1 record after they beat themselves Thursday.

Reds pitchers issued nine walks to Pittsburgh Pirates hitters and Hunter Greene and Fernando Cruz combined to walk four consecutive batters in a three-run fourth inning, which played a huge part in the Reds’ 5-4 loss in front of a sold-out crowd of 44,063 at Great American Ball Park.

It was the largest regular season crowd in the history of the ballpark.

– Bobby Nightengale

Jacob deGrom roughed up in Rangers debut

Jacob deGrom during his start against the Phillies.
Jacob deGrom during his start against the Phillies.

Two-time Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom's first start for the Texas Rangers didn't go according to plan, with the right-hander getting knocked out in the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies.

DeGrom gave up six hits – all for extra bases – and was charged with five runs in 3 ⅔ innings, including Alec Bohm's two-run homer to open the scoring in the second.

Texas signed deGrom to a five-year, $185 million deal this winter.

Things unraveled for deGrom in the third, giving up back-to-back triples to Brandon Marsh and Trea Turner to start the inning, with Turner coming around to score on deGrom's wild pitch.

The Phillies led 5-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, but Texas scored nine runs in the inning to go ahead.

Adley Rutschman goes 5-for-5 in Orioles' win vs. Red Sox

Baltimore’s catcher hit a solo homer in the first inning off starter Corey Kluber, and went 5-for-5 with four RBI and a walk on Thursday at Fenway Park.

Playing in his first opening day, 25-year-old added a two-run single in the fourth and another RBI single in the seventh inning. The Orioles won 10-9, hanging on in the ninth inning after leading 10-4 in the eighth.

Rutschman had an impressive debut in 2022, posting an .806 OPS with 13 home runs, 42 RBI and 5.2 WAR in 113 games. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft, Rutschman finished runner-up in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Seattle's Julio Rodriguez.

Yankees' Anthony Volpe shines in MLB debut

Shortstop Anthony Volpe got a huge ovation from the fans in the Bronx, drawing a walk with a stolen base in the Yankees' 5-0 win to start the 2023 season.

“It was probably the most fun day of my entire life,” Volpe said.. “To be out there and welcomed by the fans and to just go out and play. It gave me a lot of confidence. It was a special moment. I didn’t feel like it was just me as everyone was pretty excited to get there. It’s all pretty surreal.”

Said Aaron Judge: “I almost thought he was chasing 62 the way the crowd responded."

– Scooby Axson

Dansby Swanson delivers in Cubs' opening day win

“Hearing ‘Go Cubs Go’ is a lot better when you’re on the team,” said All-Star shortstop Dansby Swanson after his first game with the Cubs.

Swanson had three hits and Marcus Stroman worked six scoreless innings, breezing past baseball’s first pitch-clock violation on his way to a 4-0 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday on opening day.

Swanson’s first hit with his new team was an RBI single that sparked a four-run third. He tacked on two more singles and played his usual solid defense, including the turn on a key double play.

Swanson signed a $177 million deal with the Cubs in the offseason.

– Associated Press

Aaron Judge starts off 2023 with a mammoth blast

Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs last season. He hit his first of 2023 in his first at-bat against Giants right-hander Logan Webb.
Aaron Judge hit 62 home runs last season. He hit his first of 2023 in his first at-bat against Giants right-hander Logan Webb.

NEW YORK — American League single-season record-holder Aaron Judge provided the first home run of the 2023 season when he clocked the second pitch he saw for a solo shot on Thursday.

Judge, the reigning AL MVP, drilled a 92 mph sinker from San Francisco Giants starter Logan Webb and deposited it 422 feet into the center field netting at Monument Park in the first inning to get the Yankees on the board. They went on to win 5-0 at Yankee Stadium.

Judge hit an AL-record 62 home runs last season and also led the league in five other offensive categories for New York, which is seeking its second straight AL East crown.

— Scooby Axson 

Mets' Justin Verlander begins season on injured list

The New York Mets' injury woes continue as one of their co-aces will not be with the club to begin the season.

Just before they took the field in Miami for their opener against the Marlins, the Mets revealed that Justin Verlander -- whom they signed to a two-year, $86.6 million deal this offseason -- will be put on the injured list with a teres major strain in his upper arm.

"Looking back, it's something that was lingering. I thought it was something I was working through," Verlander said Thursday. "In my bullpen yesterday, I still felt a teeny bit of something."

Verlander's injury comes after the Mets lost closer Edwin Diaz to a season-ending torn patellar tendon in a postgame celebration at the World Baseball Classic and left-hander Jose Quintana had bone graft surgery on his rib earlier this month.

The team says Verlander will continue throwing and will come back in a week to see how he's progressing.

Verlander, 40, missed the entire 2021 season recovering from Tommy John surgery in his elbow. However, he returned better than ever last year, going 18-4 with a stellar 1.75 ERA and winning his third Cy Young award.

— Steve Gardner

MLB Opening Day games, TV schedule

What are the MLB rule changes for 2023?

The new shift rule: At the start of each pitch, teams must have at least two infielders on either side of second base, with all four positioned on the infield dirt. Infielders may not switch positions unless there is a substitution.

Pitch clock: There is a 30-second timer between batters and a time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. Hitters must be in the batter's box and ready for the pitch by the time the clock reaches 8 seconds.

Larger bases: The bases are now 18 inches square (previously 15 inches). That decreases the distance between first, second and third base by 4.5 inches. (Home plate – which stays the same size – to first base is 3 inches shorter.)

Pickoff limits: Pitchers are limited to a maximum of two pickoff attempts per plate appearance. If a pitcher attempts a third pickoff throw and doesn't get the runner out, it's an automatic balk and all runners move up one base.

— Steve Gardner

Read more on everything you need to know about the rule changes here.

Braves lefty Max Fried exits early vs. Nationals

Atlanta Braves ace Max Fried was cruising along in his opening day start in Washington when he suffered an apparent injury to his left leg in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Fried grabbed the back of his leg after running over to cover first base on a ball hit by the Nationals' Dominic Smith. The Braves said later he left with left hamstring discomfort.

Fried had allowed one earned run over 3 1/3 innings before giving way to reliever Lucas Leutge with the Braves holding a 4-1 lead.

— Steve Gardner

First pitch clock violation occurs in Cubs-Brewers game

Veteran right-hander Marcus Stroman is the answer to the trivia question fans of MLB's new pitch clock will remember years into the future.

With a 1-2 count on Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, Stroman was called for a pitch timer violation to even the count. It was the first time the new rule was implemented in a regular-season game.

Yelich eventually walked, but Stroman was able to get out of trouble by coaxing Rowdy Tellez to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Meanwhile, J.D. Davis of the San Francisco Giants became the first hitter called for an automatic strike under the new rules when he failed to get in the batter's box in time in the top of the ninth against the Yankees.

— Steve Gardner

MLB Opening Day starters 

  • Braves LHP Max Fried (14-7, 2.48 ERA in 2022) vs. Nationals LHP Patrick Corbin (6-19, 6.31)

  • Giants RHP Logan Webb (15-9, 2.90) vs. Yankees RHP Gerrit Cole (13-8, 3.50)

  • Orioles RHP Kyle Gibson (10-8, 5.05 with Phillies) vs. Red Sox RHP Corey Kluber (10-10, 4.34 with Rays)

  • Brewers RHP Corbin Burnes (12-8, 2.94) vs. Cubs RHP Marcus Stroman (6-7, 3.50)

  • Tigers LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (5-5, 4.05) vs. Rays LHP Shane McClanahan (12-8, 2.54)

  • Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25) vs. Rangers RHP Jacob deGrom (5-4, 3.08 with Mets)

  • Mets RHP Max Scherzer (11-5, 2.29) vs. Marlins RHP Sandy Alcantara (14-9, 2.28)

  • Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (5-12, 3.91) vs. Reds RHP Hunter Greene (5-13, 4.44)

  • Rockies RHP German Marquez (9-13, 4.95) vs. Padres LHP Blake Snell (8-10, 3.38)

  • Blue Jays RHP Alek Manoah (16-7, 2.24) vs. Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas (12-13, 3.29)

  • Twins RHP Pablo Lopez (10-10, 3.75) vs. Royals RHP Zack Greinke (4-9, 3.68)

  • White Sox RHP Dylan Cease (14-8, 2.20) vs. Astros LHP Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82)

  • Angels RHP Shohei Ohtani (15-9, 2.33 ERA) vs. A’s LHP Kyle Muller (1-1, 8.03 with Braves)

  • Diamondbacks RHP Zac Gallen (12-4, 2.54 ERA) vs. Dodgers LHP Julio Urías (17-7, 2.16 ERA)

  • Guardians RHP Shane Bieber (13-8, 2.88 ERA) vs. Mariners RHP Luis Castillo (8-6 2.99 ERA)

What Roger Clemens thinks of MLB's new pitch clock

The way Roger Clemens, the seven-time Cy Young winner, figures it, he would be an even better pitcher now with the pitch clock.

“I would have used it to my advantage,’’ Clemens said recently. “Back in my day, if you got ahead of a guy 0-and-2, you’d waste a pitch. I’d just hold it and get a pitch clock violation. Now, I’ve got him 1-and-2, and I’d just stand on the mound holding the ball. They wouldn’t know when I was going to throw the next one not. I could even get a second violation and make it 2-and-2. I’d have a huge advantage with the hitter not knowing when I was going to throw that ball. “I called 90 to 95% of my pitches anyway, so I never would have felt rushed with a pitch clock.’

Bob Nightengale

Podcast: Rob Manfred thrilled with feedback on new rules

After three years of COVID-19 restrictions and a work stoppage, normalcy has never felt so good.

“I think this could go down as one of the most unbelievable opening days in history when you think about it,’’ MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told USA TODAY Sports last week in a wide-ranging interview in Miami.

“We’re back to normal. We got the most exciting set of rule changes I think ever in the game, really, certainly the biggest set. … I think we have great momentum coming into this year.’’

Manfred also discussed the improved pace of play, the financial problems of regional sports networks, MLB teams' payroll disparities, possible expansion and other issues.

Bob Nightengale

What is the pitch clock in MLB?

The pitch clock will be 15 seconds with no one on base and 20 seconds with runners on base. But more than a week before Opening Day, Major League Baseball sent rule clarifications to teams, players and umpires on the new rules for the upcoming season. Among the adjustments:

  • Pitchers will be informed that no warmup pitches will be permitted with less than 30 seconds left on the clock in between innings.

  • Baserunners, who are running on a pitch, will be given time by the umpires to get back on a foul balls.

  • Hitters also will be given time to be set in the batter’s box, with at least eight seconds left on the pitch clock, preventing quick pitches.

Bob Nightengale

What happens if a pitcher violates the pitch clock?

There is a 30-second timer between batters and a time limit between pitches. After receiving the ball from the catcher or umpire, pitchers are required to begin their motion within 15 seconds with the bases empty or within 20 seconds with runners on base. If they don't, they're charged with an automatic ball.

Hitters also share the responsibility to keep the game moving. They must be in the batter's box and ready for the pitch by the time the clock reaches 8 seconds. If not, they're charged with an automatic strike. A batter can call time out only once per plate appearance.

Steve Gardner

How long will pitch clock be in 2023? 

The pitch clock will be 15 seconds with the bases empty, 20 seconds with runners on.

How to stream MLB games for free in 2023

A free subscription to MLB.TV could be just a few clicks call away – depending on your phone carrier.

MLB and T-Mobile announced the continuation of a juicy promotion available to T-Mobile customers, who can get complimentary streaming access to every game during the 2023 MLB season for those who take advantage of the deal. MLB and T-Mobile ran the same promotion in 2022.

Richard Morin

Can Shohei Ohtani be better than last year? 

The Los Angeles Angels are planning to pitch Shohei Ohtani more often this year, giving him the ball every fifth day, and providing he stays healthy, who can possibly put a limit on him? This international star generates about $20 million a year for the Los Angeles Angels by his presence alone. If the Angels are out of the race at the trade deadline, would they have the guts to trade Ohtani?

Absolutely. They may have no choice. Certainly, they’ll need to have a conversation with Ohtani to determine whether he has any interest in returning, and if not, the phone lines are open with operators standing nearby.

Bob Nightengale

MLB sent memo to teams detailing adjustments to new rules

Major League Baseball, after listening to input from players and managers, made a series of adjustments to their new rules that will go into effect this year, but the pitch clock remains the same, according to a memo sent to clubs last week that was obtained by USA TODAY Sports.

The clarifications were made largely to prevent clubs from circumventing rules on instant replays involving the shift, fake PitchCom malfunctions, providing hitters time to collect themselves after being knocked down or taking a particularly large cut, and reducing an advantage pitchers could have after a batter timeout.

Read Bob Nightengale on the rule tweaks here.

Can Aaron Judge duplicate his AL-record 62 home run season?

There has never been a hitter not linked to performance-enhancing drugs with back-to-back 60-homer seasons. The last clean player to hit 50 or more homers in consecutive seasons was Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997-98. If Aaron Judge stays healthy, there’s no reason he can’t hit 50 homers again, but only this time, expect him to get intentionally walked more than 19 times like a year ago.

Bob Nightengale

Who will be the biggest disappointment in baseball?

The New York Yankees. Yes, the Yankees have spoiled everyone by coasting to the playoffs for six consecutive years, advancing to the ALCS in three of those years, but has anyone paid attention to those pitching injuries? There are only two starters remaining from their original projected rotation: Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes. The Yankees still are good, but intimidating? Uh-uh. Could they possibly miss the playoffs? Don’t be shocked.

Bob Nightengale

What MLB team has the most pressure?

Say hello to your lovable San Diego Padres, your small-market team who spends money like they’re in New York or Los Angeles. You don’t sign the biggest stars in the game, flirt with every big-name free agent, have the third-largest payroll, and take satisfaction in anything less than a World Series appearance?

Bob Nightengale

What MLB team is the most overlooked? 

Yep, those 111-win Dodgers. Sure, they no longer have Trea Turner, Justin Turner or Cody Bellinger, and were eerily quiet in the offseason while saving money for the Ohtani sweepstakes, but this is still the mighty Dodgers with a powerful farm system that can compensate for any deficiencies. They’ll be back in the playoffs, and perhaps even win the division once again.

Bob Nightengale

Who wins MLB postseason awards in 2023? 

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels

NL MVP: Trea Turner, Phillies

AL Cy Young: Emmanuel Clase, Guardians

NL Cy Young: Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks

AL Rookie: Gunnar Henderson, Orioles

NL Rookie: Corbin Carroll, Diamondbacks

Bob Nightengale

What is MLB worth?

The value of MLB teams increased by 12% despite the bankruptcy filing of the Diamond Sports Group, according to Forbes, raising the average value of franchises to $2.32 billion, led again by the New York Yankees at $7.1 billion.

Bob Nightengale

Which MLB team makes the most profit?

Several of the small-market owners who are crying poor, and have sub-$100 million payrolls, are actually making the most money, angering the union and large-market teams. The Oakland A’s ($62.2 million) ranked fifth among teams who made the most money while the Pittsburgh Pirates ($51.5 million) ranked eighth and the Kansas City Royals earned $27.8 million.

Meanwhile, the New York Mets, with their current $355 million payroll, lost an MLB-leading $138.5 million last year while the San Diego Padres ($55.2 million) and Chicago White Sox ($53.4 million) lost the second- and third-most money. The Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, the two largest-market teams in baseball, earned $16.3 million and $14.3 million, by comparison. The Boston Red Sox, who significantly lowered their payroll, earned $71.6 million, third behind the Seattle Mariners ($83.8 million) and the San Francisco Giants ($74.9 million).

Bob Nightengale

How much do MLB teams profit each year?

MLB teams earned an average profit of $17.7 million, last year which is down 20% from a year ago.

Bob Nightengale 

Who will win the AL East?

Bob Nightengale: Blue Jays

Gabe Lacques: Yankees

Steve Gardner: Blue Jays

Stephen Borelli: Yankees

Scott Boeck: Yankees

Jesse Yomtov: Yankees

Who will win the AL Central?

Bob Nightengale: Guardians

Gabe Lacques: Guardians

Steve Gardner: Guardians

Stephen Borelli: Guardians

Scott Boeck: White Sox

Jesse Yomtov: Guardians

Who will win the AL West?

Bob Nightengale: Astros

Gabe Lacques: Astros

Steve Gardner: Astros

Stephen Borelli: Astros

Scott Boeck: Astros

Jesse Yomtov: Astros

Who will win the NL East?

Bob Nightengale: Atlanta

Gabe Lacques: Atlanta

Steve Gardner: Atlanta

Stephen Borelli: Atlanta

Scott Boeck: Atlanta

Jesse Yomtov: Atlanta

Who will win the NL Central?

Bob Nightengale: Cardinals

Gabe Lacques: Cardinals

Steve Gardner: Cardinals

Stephen Borelli: Cardinals

Scott Boeck: Cardinals

Jesse Yomtov: Cardinals

Who will win the NL West?

Bob Nightengale: Padres

Gabe Lacques: Padres

Steve Gardner: Padres

Stephen Borelli: Dodgers

Scott Boeck: Padres

Jesse Yomtov: Dodgers

Who is predicted to win the American League in 2023?

Bob Nightengale: Guardians

Gabe Lacques: Yankees

Steve Gardner: Blue Jays

Stephen Borelli: Astros

Scott Boeck: Astros

Jesse Yomtov: Astros

Who is predicted to win the National League in 2023?

Bob Nightengale: Phillies

Gabe Lacques: Padres

Steve Gardner: Atlanta

Stephen Borelli: Padres

Scott Boeck: Padres

Jesse Yomtov: Padres

Who is predicted to win the World Series 2023?

Bob Nightengale: Guardians

Gabe Lacques: Padres

Steve Gardner: Atlanta

Stephen Borelli: Padres

Scott Boeck: Padres

Jesse Yomtov: Astros

MLB win total predictions for 2023 season

USA TODAY Sports’ six-person panel has produced this projection of all 30 teams’ win totals this season:

Will there be a ghost runner in baseball this season?

Although it's not new in 2023, MLB said this offseason it was permanently implementing a provision in use since 2020 that every half inning after the ninth begins with a runner on second base. The idea was first instituted in 2020 to cut down on long games and prevent pitchers being overused in the pandemic-shortened season. It added a new layer of strategy and increased scoring considerably in extra innings — with teams and players overwhelmingly expressing their support for keeping it.

Steve Gardner

Which MLB players will be helped, hurt most by this season's new rules?

Rangers shortstop Corey Seager hit a career-low .245 last season, but it came with a career-high 33 home runs.
Rangers shortstop Corey Seager hit a career-low .245 last season, but it came with a career-high 33 home runs.

Let’s take a look at the new rules to see how they might impact the numbers and our quest for a fantasy baseball title this season.

Eliminating the shift: Great news for lefty hitters Corey Seager, Kyle Tucker and Kyle Schwarber, who faced the shift in more than 600 of their total plate appearances last season (or over 90% of them). Other players who should benefit from the shift rule include José Ramirez, Max Kepler, Max Muncy, Shohei Ohtani, Yordan Alvarez, Matt Olson and even right-handed hitter Eugenio Suarez.

Larger bases encourage stealing: Trea Turner, Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodriguez and Jake McCarthy will be among the favorites to lead their leagues in steals. Other speedsters who could run more often include Tyler O’Neill (14-for-18 in SB attempts in 2022), Amed Rosario (18-for-22), Leody Taveras (11-for-16), Lane Thomas (8-for-12), Jeremy Peña (11-for-13) and Jazz Chisholm (12-for-17). All of them ranked in the 94th percentile or above in sprint speed, but none swiped as many as 20 bases a year ago.

Pitch clock speeds things up: We do know Corbin Burnes, Shohei Ohtani, Luis Garcia, Aaron Nola and Alek Manoah are among the pitchers who tend to work more slowly. Relievers Devin Williams, Kenley Jansen, Kyle Finnegan and Ryan Helsley also like to take their time. Plus, hitters Pete Alonso and Mark Canha are among the most deliberate at the plate.

Steve Gardner

Who is the Yankees' starting shortstop?

Anthony Volpe will make his Major League Baseball debut on Opening Day when the New York Yankees play the San Francisco Giants.
Anthony Volpe will make his Major League Baseball debut on Opening Day when the New York Yankees play the San Francisco Giants.

Anthony Volpe has arrived, at age 21, and will jog out to his position on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on Thursday afternoon to hold down one of the most prestigious positions in sports. And that alone speaks both for the Yankees’ hopes for the young man and his potential to fulfill them. — Gabe Lacques

Where did Anthony Volpe grow up?

Anthony Volpe is a Tri-State kid, pride of Watchung, New Jersey, and Morristown’s Delbarton School, from where you can reach Yankee Stadium in less than an hour, with cooperation from various bridges and thoroughfares. He attended Jeter’s last All-Star Game at the old Yankee Stadium in 2014 and wore No. 7 as a tribute to Mickey Mantle, his grandfather’s favorite player.

Gabe Lacques

How big is Anthony Volpe?

Listed at 5-11 and 180 pounds, Anthony Volpe a bit smaller than most of the big-money shortstops the Yankees bypassed. But his career .881 OPS in the minor leagues shows that frame can generate power, and Volpe should continue to fill out for the next several years.

“I think he’s got all the makeup tools,” reigning AL MVP and freshly minted captain Aaron Judge said earlier this month. “My thing has always been, if you’re the best player, it shouldn’t matter your age. You should be up helping the New York Yankees. It doesn’t matter if you’re 19 or 41. “If you’re the best guy for the job, you should be playing.”

— Gabe Lacques

How old is Yankees shortstop Anthony Volpe?

Heralded shortstop prospect Anthony Volpe will be 21 years, 336 days old on Opening Day. Only four Yankees have made their MLB debuts on Opening Day at a younger age:

1951 Mickey Mantle: 19 years, 179 days

1930 Ben Chapman: 21 years, 111 days

1962 Joe Pepitone: 21 years, 183 days

1932 Frankie Crosetti: 21 years 191 days

— Bob Nightengale

What is the Yankees' current pitching rotation?

One American League GM predicts that the Yankees would miss out on the playoffs this spring, and this was before their rotation took hit after hit. The Yankees opened the spring with a starting rotation of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes and Frankie Montas. Only Cole and Cortes stayed healthy, with Severino the latest to go down with a lat strain. Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German are the replacements and Jhony Brito could be he fifth starter, if needed.

Bob Nightengale

Will Terry Francona return in 2023?

The truth is that this is a spring in which Terry Francona has shown new life, new energy and gusto. This is the healthiest he has felt in years. He ditched his walking boot, tossed away his crutches and gave away his electric golf cart.

There’s just something about managing a young, talented and athletic team, believing it can go where no Cleveland baseball team has gone since 1948.

“This is as energetic as I’ve seen him,’’ said Guardians GM Mike Chernoff, “in the 11 years he’s been here. It is really, really fun to see. And so good for our team. People feed off that energy that he brings.

“But even when he was in tremendous pain, and not doing well, he’s still really, really good, and in my opinion, the best manager in baseball.’’

Bob Nightengale

What happened to Jose Altuve?

Houston Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve suffered a broken right thumb when he was hit by a pitch in a World Baseball Classic quarterfinal against Team USA that required surgery. General manager Dana Brown said there is no timetable for Altuve's return.

Altuve, the 2017 American League MVP who turns 33 in May, is an eight-time All-Star and Brown told reporters his loss is a "massive blow." The Astros, the reigning World Series champions, will likely be without Altuve well into May.

Gabe Lacques

How did Mets closer Edwin Díaz hurt his knee?

Edwin Diaz is helped off the field after being injured during the on-field celebration after Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic.
Edwin Diaz is helped off the field after being injured during the on-field celebration after Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic.

Edwin Diaz, the Mets' outstanding closer whose $105 million contract was a crucial portion of the club's massive offseason spending in hopes of a World Series run, crumbled to the turf amid Puerto Rico's celebration after eliminating the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Subsequent tests revealed a patellar tendon injury that will sideline Diaz an estimated eight months, Mets GM Billy Eppler said. It is a blow to his Puerto Rican brothers and his Mets teammates both.

Gabe Lacques

MLB's five most important players for 2023

As Major League Baseball’s 2023 season dawns, USA TODAY Sports examines five players who may not take home any individual hardware, but whose teams’ success may hinge on their health and production.

Yankees' Nestor Cortes: The game moves quickly at the big league level, both between the lines and in a team’s pecking order. For Nestor Cortes, the 5-10 Yankees left-hander, he’s no longer the surprise All-Star, the nice little story of persevering through nearly eight years of minor league ball and organization hopping to stick in New York.

Astros' Kyle Tucker: It is not Tucker’s team to inherit. But now would be time to take that next step toward MVP candidate.All the tools are there: Tucker, at 25, slugged 30 home runs and produced a 128 adjusted OPS last season, and smacked two homers in Game 1 of the World Series. His 129 weighted runs created plus put him in a rent district with Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Mets' Starling Marte: When Marte is healthy, few are better, as he showed last year. Heck, he played through not just the finger but also quadricep and groin ailments, the latter requiring postseason surgery. On a team where six everyday players are at least 30 and three starting pitchers between 36 and 40, maintenance will be crucial. Getting their All-Star right fielder to October – when he turns 35 – might be most important.

Cubs' Dansby Swanson: It’s imperative he show that the 26 homers he averaged his final two seasons in Atlanta is his new normal. That his only season as an above league-average hitter – that would be 2022 – is a harbinger of future production and not an apex. And that quarterbacking a five-time division winner lends itself to reshaping the culture in Chicago, a place they once expected to win, too.

Padres' Blake Snell: A groin injury to start the season limited Snell to 24 starts, but he struck out 171 in 128 innings. With Darvish idled and Joe Musgrove nearing a return from a toe injury, it is Snell who will lead the charge to start this year. At the end, he will be a free agent, heading to the market for the first time and with agent Scott Boras in tow.

Gabe Lacques

MLB all-sleeper team for 2023 could help push your team over the top

A well-selected sleeper who outperforms his preseason projection could potentially be the difference in winning a league championship.

Here’s one player at every position you should consider as a sleeper pick this season. — Steve Gardner

Who is the best player in fantasy baseball? 

We ranked the top 250 for 2023. As for how our top 250 shakes out by position, there are 152 hitters, 97 pitchers ... and one Shohei Ohtani. Check out our complete list.

Steve Gardner

Your ultimate guide to fantasy baseball player rankings 2023

USA TODAY is here to get you fully prepared for the season with exclusive rankings and essential information to help win your league championship. Here is your complete draft kit, including overall player rankings and position by position rankings.

Who is the No. 1 prospect in MLB?

Gunnar Henderson should hit in the middle of the Orioles lineup and see time at both third base and shortstop.
Gunnar Henderson should hit in the middle of the Orioles lineup and see time at both third base and shortstop.

SS/3B Gunnar Henderson, Orioles: Expectations are high for the favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year. The 2019 second round draft pick had a strong showing (.264 with a .788 OPS) in 34 games last season and even homered in his second major-league at-bat on Aug. 31. Henderson, 21, who has power and speed, is positioned to play a significant role this season, likely splitting time on the left side of the infield.

Who are MLB's best young players?

With a pitch clock and a shift ban heralding a new and potentially action-infused era in the game, the rookies and first-year players leaving a mark on the season will have grown up with these rules in the minor leagues, where game experimentation has been the norm for a decade.

Now, those players are ready for prime time - and ready for a major impact. That's reflected in USA TODAY Sports' list of 100 Names You Need To Know for 2023.

This collection of talent from all 30 teams reflects not necessarily the top prospects, but rather those you will almost certainly see bubble up from the bushes this year. The players are ranked by both prospect pedigree and path to find a significant role this season.

Here is the complete list of all 100 players.

Five bold predictions for the 2023 MLB season: Steals, saves and a breakout star

Dodgers prospect Miguel Vargas has moved to second base this season after playing first and third in his first taste of the majors last year.
Dodgers prospect Miguel Vargas has moved to second base this season after playing first and third in his first taste of the majors last year.

Instead of trying to make logical sense of everything this opening day, let’s allow our minds to wander and consider some (admittedly long-shot) predictions that could define the 2023 season. Maybe Trea Turner stealing 65 bases, Shohei Ohtani sweeping AL MVP and Cy Young, Brandon Belt hitting 30 dingers for the first time and more.

Steve Gardner

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB Opening Day 2023 recap: Baseball season begins with new rules