Game time is 7:05 p.m. at newly renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park. The Bulls host the Gwinnett Braves, the team that finished second in the division last year. In fact, the Bulls have finished first and the Braves second in each of the last three seasons, and four of the last five. So this is about as close to Yankees-Red Sox as the International League gets.
And tonight is also about as close to the major leagues as pitching matchups get. The Bulls send Alex Cobb to the mound against Gwinnett's Julio Teheran. These right-handers were the two best starting pitchers in the IL last season, and Cobb would probably be in the majors right now were it not for the Tampa Bay Rays' formidable starting pitching depth. He isn't likely to be a Bull for very long. Cobb is back on the mound after his 2011 season was prematurely ended by thoracic outlet surgery. This sounds very scary but is in fact a fairly simple procedure in which part of the top rib bone (the one just under the clavicle) is removed in order to free up blood circulation. Cobb, who last year posted a 2.55 ERA in 21 starts split between Durham and Tampa Bay, says he feels 100 percent healthy now.
Cobb also started last year's home opener for the Bulls, dominating the Norfolk Tides.
Teheran won both the IL's Rookie of the Year and Pitcher of the Year awards in 2011. His superb performance earned him a late-season callup to the majors, but the Braves want to give the 21-year-old Teheran more seasoning in Gwinnett.
In other words, whether you come for the fanfare and stay for the fastballs, or vice versa, bright and shiny prospects await at the DBAP tonight. Yes, it'll be a little chilly, but think forward to some sticky, oppressive August night later this season: You'll be sweating it out in the bleachers, recalling with fondness the jacket-and-hat briskness of Opening Day.
Before you head out to the ballpark, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to brush up on the tried-and-true Glossary we created least year and offer to you at no additional charge, as a supplement to our deep-focus, hot-and-heavy, sound-and-furious Bulls coverage here on Triangle Offense. Ignore the second and fourth paragraphs.
See you there!