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Arizona Diamondbacks: Marquee matchup highlights Opening Day

By Mark Brown
Mar 8, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke throws in the first inning against Mexico during a 2017 World Baseball Classic exhibition game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 8, 2017; Salt River Pima-Maricopa, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke throws in the first inning against Mexico during a 2017 World Baseball Classic exhibition game at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Zack Greinke will try to get the Arizona Diamondbacks off to a positive start. To do that, he’ll have to face off against a tough opponent.

The environment surrounding opening day usually generates an equal amount of butterflies and excitement. In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, that likely seems to be the case as well.

That’s because the opening day pitching match-ups represent that kind of competition reserved for post-season play. When Zack Greinke takes the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks Sunday afternoon in Chase Field before a sell-out crowd and a national television audience (ESPN2, 4 p.m. EDT), he will tangle with San Francisco Giants’ left-hander Madison Bumgarner.

In a duel among the best of the game, this game represents a rare showcase where two of the premier battle head-to-head. At AT&T Park last April 20, Greinke beat Bumgarner 2-1 in a classic pitcher’s duel. During the season, Greinke eventually went 1-2 in three more starts against the Giants, but the contest in San Francisco stands as truly representative of what can happen when two of the best are at the top of their game.

To prepare for opening day, manager Torey Lovullo of the Arizona Diamondbacks looked at the calendar and counted back from April 2. That put Greinke in a position to miss his opening start of the spring but placed him in a position to pitch every five days. That brought him on target to start the first game of the season.

After his final spring start on March 28 against Seattle, Greinke told Venom Strikes the preparation is complete, and it’s time for the bell to ring.

"I’m executing all my pitches and ready. You are rusty at the start of the spring training but things are smooth now. We’re ready for the season."

For Grienke, this will be his third opening day start. Last season, Greinke went 13-7, and a 4.37 ERA in 26 starts. That represented Greinke’s second-highest ERA for his 12-year major-league career.

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For Bumgarner, this will be his fourth straight, opening day start. Hall of Famer Juan Marichal holds the San Francisco record for most starts at the opening day of a season. Marichal started 10, opening day games, including six straight from 1964 to 1969.

Bumgarner is coming off a 15-9 season, 2.74 ERA in 34 starts. He also has a career .183 batting average with 14 career homers and 49 RBIs.

In facing Bumgarner on Sunday, Greinke is 3-0 with a 2.05 ERA in three previous head-to-head matches with the Giants’ lefty.

Overall, the Diamondbacks are 6-3 in their last nine, opening day games. They are also opening the season at home for the sixth straight year.

Final roster moves

On Friday, the Diamondbacks paired down to their 25-man opening day roster. Righthander Silvino Bracho was optioned to Triple-A Reno and pitchers Jake Barrett and Steve Hathaway were placed on the disabled list. Left-hander Andrew Chafin beat out Bracho for the final bullpen spot.

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Left-handed hitting Jeremy Hazelbacker, the first free-agent signing by general manager Mike Hazen last October, won the final bench job, Hazelbaker is an outfielder who can play all three positions in the garden.

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