Feldman to make Opening Day start for Astros
Right-hander to face Yanks in second opener assignment of his career
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Scott Feldman knows just how special it is for your team to give you the ball on Opening Day, so he certainly didn't take the news lightly when Astros manager Bo Porter told him Monday he would start against the Yankees in the April 1 season opener at Minute Maid Park.
The Opening Day assignment will be the second for Feldman, who signed with the Astros for three years and $30 million last offseason to be the veteran leader in the clubhouse and the steady presence on the mound for a team depending on young starting pitchers.
"It's pretty cool," Feldman said. "It's something hopefully my family can enjoy, and it will be a lot of fun and something I always remember."
Feldman will be the fifth pitcher to start on Opening Day for the Astros in the past five years, joining Bud Norris (2013), Wandy Rodriguez ('12), Brett Myers ('11) and Roy Oswalt (2003-10). The Astros snapped a six-game losing streak on Opening Day last year by beating the Rangers behind Norris.
With Norris traded to the Orioles last year, Porter said Feldman was the right man to start the season for Houston.
"You look at his track record and the fact he's a former 17-game winner and the fact that he gives us a great opportunity to win a ballgame each and every time he takes the mound," Porter said. "He's a strike-thrower, he's a competitor."
Feldman, 31, started on Opening Day for the Rangers in 2010 against the Blue Jays, throwing seven innings and taking a no-decision. He was coming off a 17-win season, but slumped to a 7-11 season with a 5.48 ERA that year for Texas.
"There's always nerves the first game of the year, even in Spring Training," Feldman said. "You always try to stay calm and go out there and have a good game."
Porter didn't say how the rotation could shape up beyond Feldman's April 1 start, but the right-hander's Opening Day assignment will be a tough one. The Astros will be facing a Yankees team that added Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to its lineup.
"They've got a good lineup, obviously," Feldman said. "A lot of those guys I faced last year in the AL East in the second half. I'll just go over the scouting reports I have and try to make good pitches and study up on some of the new guys they have, too."
Feldman has pitched well this spring and will have two more starts remaining in Grapefruit League play before facing the Yankees. He'll have an extra day of rest prior to that first start, so he plans to throw an extra bullpen session to keep fresh.
"The responsibility is to be fully prepared whenever you take the ball," Feldman said. "It's not just Opening Day, but any time you're pitching, you want to be able to go to sleep the night before knowing you've done everything to prepare and gone over the film you need to go over so when you go out there and take the mound you're ready to do."
Feldman's leadership abilities have been evident this spring as young pitchers like Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzer and Brad Peacock -- all of whom had their first substantial time in the big leagues last season -- have leaned on him for support.
"It's well-deserved," Oberholtzer said of Feldman's Opening Day assignment. "Feldman's a great guy and a great pitcher as well. I've seen him throw the other day and he has very good stuff -- sinker, cutter. I saw him warming up, and I don't know how he's not throwing 102 [mph]. He's a great guy, a great clubhouse guy and works hard. I can't say enough about him so far."
The 6-foot-7 Feldman went 12-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 30 starts with the Cubs and Orioles last season. Earlier this spring, he said being the veteran of a young staff probably comes with less pressure considering he's locked into a contract.
"When you're always playing for a contract or going year to year or stuff like that, I think it can put a lot of pressure on guys," Feldman said. "For me, I don't put too much pressure on myself to begin with. I try to remember I'm playing a game, and it's a lot of fun and I really enjoy what I do. Just go out there and try to have fun."
Feldman made his first 73 career appearances out of the bullpen from 2005-07 before being moved to the rotation in '08. His best season came in 2009, when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 34 games (31 starts). Feldman is a ground-ball pitcher who allowed only 159 hits in 181 2/3 innings last season, with 132 strikeouts and 56 walks.
"Scott Feldman is a student of the game and he wants to get better, and he's going to take advantage of any opportunity to get better," Porter said.