Barring the improbable return of free agent Jorge Soler for 2022, the KC Royals’ 54th Opening Day will feature their 54th different Opening Day lineup.
Whether it be for the scheduled March 31 opener at Cleveland or an opener delayed by the current lockout, this season’s Opening Day lineup will include at least one Royal different from last season’s. In fact, no starting 10 Kansas City players (including pitcher and designated hitter) have ever started together twice.
Only one group of nine Royals players has started on Opening Day twice.
Only the same group of nine (a lineup not including the pitcher) has ever started twice on Opening Day. In 1982 and 1983, catcher John Wathan, first baseman Willie Aikens, second baseman Frank White, shortstop U.L. Washington, third baseman George Brett, left fielder Willie Wilson, center fielder Amos Otis, right fielder Jerry Martin and DH Hal McRae were all in the lineup. Dennis Leonard was the starting pitcher in a 13-5 loss at Baltimore in 1982 and Larry Gura took the ball first in 1983’s 7-2 victory at Baltimore.
Between injuries, suspensions, trades and natural change, a housecleaning had taken place prior to 1984 as White and McRae were the only ones left in that year’s Opening Day lineup.
Of all players to start in 53 Opening Days for the Royals, Brett has the most starts with 18—12 of those at third, three at first base and three as the DH. White has the most starts at one position with 15 at second base. McRae started 10 times as DH, once in right field and twice in left. Otis started 11 openers in center and one in left field. Alex Gordon had nine starts in left and another three at third base.
Opening Day corner outfield positions have been models of inconsistency.
The corner outfield spots have been models of inconsistency. Led by Gordon’s nine, left field has been home to 35 different first game starters, and right field has seen 32. Danny Tartabull’s five starts leads the group in right.
David DeJesus set a standard of sorts with six consecutive Opening Day starts in the Royals’ outfield. Six years is not unique in itself, but becomes so when you see four starts in center field (2002-2005), one in left (2006) and one in right (2007).
John Mayberry, Mike Sweeney and Eric Hosmer each started six openers at first base, Salvador Perez has started behind the plate seven times and Freddie Patek and Alcides Escobar each started eight times at shortstop to open a season.
Kevin Appier leads KC Royals Opening Day pitchers with seven starts.
Kevin Appier’s seven starts top Kansas City’s Opening Day hurlers, and he started six straight openers from 1992-1997. Tim Belcher threw seven innings of shutout ball in 1998 before Appier again took starting honors in 1999.
In total, 26 pitchers have garnered Opening Day starts for the Royals. Oddly enough, in the seasons in which Bret Saberhagen, David Cone and Zack Greinke won their Cy Young Awards, none started an opener.
Dennis Leonard (1980), Bud Black (1985), James Shields (2014) and Yordano Ventura (2015) were Opening Day starters in the Royals’ World Series seasons.
If Brad Keller starts the opener in 2022 (or another one in the future), he’ll become the seventh pitcher in Royals history with three Opening Day starts, trailing only Appier’s seven and Dennis Leonard, who had four.
The KC Royals will be looking to keep their Opening Day record above .500.
Overall, the team is 27-26 on Opening Day, including last season’s 14-10 slugfest win against Texas that saw Royals’ pitching strike out 16 Ranger hitters, but also hit one batter and walk nine more.
The 2022 scheduled opener against Cleveland will be Kansas City’s fourth against that franchise, having gone 1-2 in the first three. KC has faced the Chicago White Sox nine times to start the season with a 6-3 record. The Royals have split eight opening games against division rival Minnesota. The club has split four openers in March and has a 25-23 record in April openers. The COVID-delayed 2020 opener was a July loss.
What memories will come from Opening Day 2022? What players will get off to a strong start to the season? No matter what happens, the day will become a part of Royals history.