It wasn't so much that Tanner Scheppers "earned" the start on Opening Day he'll make on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies and Cliff Lee. It was more of a case of the Texas Rangers having to choose between Scheppers and Martin Perez, and they chose Scheppers.
Last year's setup man, Scheppers will make the Opening Day start on Monday in place of Yu Darvish, who will begin the season on the disabled list with neck stiffness that was determined to not be serious after an examination by back specialist Dr. Drew Dossett and an MRI.
It's been a short time coming, so to speak, for Scheppers since he's hit the big leagues, even though that took him a while. In 2012, Scheppers made some relief appearances for the Rangers and that didn't go well. Now, he'll become the second pitcher since World War II to make his first career start on Opening Day, and the first American League pitcher. Los Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom Fernando Valenzuela did it in 1981, setting off "Fernando Mania" across baseball.
“I’m extremely excited,” Scheppers told reporters. “Let’s get this season started and rolling in the right direction. This is not what I expected, but I think everything happens for a reason. I’ve done everything I can to try to put myself in position to be successful.
“I think the games I pitched in last year, when I pitched late, will be helpful."
Scheppers compiled a 3.07 ERA this spring after a breakout season in 2013 as one of the league's best setup men, when he was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings. In his debut season in 2012, Scheppers couldn't harness his lively arm and had a 4.45 ERA in 39 appearances.