ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The wait is almost over as Tampa Bay baseball comes back to town!
The Rays are set to open their new 2023 MLB Season against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, March 30, at home inside Tropicana Field. So make sure to get your popcorn, peanuts and cracker jacks all ready for the big ballgame!
Here's everything you need to know to help prepare you for Tampa Bay's home opener.
As he did so often last season, pitcher Shane McClanahan will look to be the star of the show come Thursday.
The 25-year-old is most likely to start the game out on the pitching mound against Detroit and will look to set the tone of the game for the rest of his team.
The Rays pitching rotation is still no short of talent. With the addition of pitcher Zach Eflin, who signed a $40 million, three-year deal in free agency, the rotation of McClanahan, Eflin, Drew Rasmussen and Jeffrey Spring, fans can expect the Rays to have the potential to be among the best in the American League this season.
2023 rule changes
There are also a lot of changes to the game of baseball for the upcoming season.
For example, there is the strictly enforced pitch clock. Pitchers will have 15 seconds to throw the ball when no one is on base and 20 seconds to throw when someone is on the base. Batters must be engaged with the pitcher at the eight-second mark.
There are also no shifts allowed, which means two infielders have to be on each side of the second base bag and a player cannot step on the outfield either.
Finally, there will be bigger bases this year with limited pick-offs for pitchers. Fans can expect stolen bases to go way up this year with this rule change.
New Tropicana Field menu
What's better than watching the Rays dominate at Tropicana Field? Watching the Rays dominate at Tropicana Field with a foot-long pretzel dog in your hand.
That's just one of the mouthwatering new menu items baseball fans can grab during the team's upcoming 25th anniversary season.
10 Tampa Bay got a sneak peek at the new food coming to concession stands throughout Tropicana Field in 2023 – including a foot-long pretzel dog, pulled pork nachos, chili and cheese hot dog, chicken skewers, falafel pitas, milkshakes, donuts and more! To see the full new menu, click here.
Arozarena's hot streak
Outfielder Randy Arozarena had himself one heck of a tournament with Team Mexico at the World Baseball Classic.
The Cuban-Mexican infielder is entering the home opener fresh off a string of impressive displays with Mexico and his team was eliminated in the semifinals of the tournament, his play and skills did not go unnoticed.
In the tournament, Arozarena hit .450 with six doubles, one home run and nine RBIs.
The 28-year-old will look to once again dazzle with his bat, glove and style — and also wear a sombrero and cowboy boots or sign autographs for fans during a pitching change.
Pitcher Tyler Glasnow missed almost the whole season last year -- and he'll be missing the beginning this year.
Glasnow suffered an oblique strain during spring training and will not be available until maybe the second week of April.
Although he may have not received the starting spot over McClanahan, Glasnow being included in the five-man pitching rotation when healthy will boost the team's chances to make the playoffs for the fifth straight season.
Wander Franco's return
Shortstop Wander Franco was limited to 83 games last season due to injuries but is set to begin this year out on the field against Detroit.
Franco has yet to show strong displays on a consistent basis, but he is still a solid defender at shortstop – and if he can translate that form to first base, he may be considered for that position instead.
Fans are still waiting for the 22-year-old to have a year where he makes that jump to the "next level" after the young star had his breakout year in 2021.
If he can stay healthy, Franco may show to fans and teams across the league that he poses a threat every time he steps up to bat.
More things to know
- With a more balanced schedule this year, AL East teams will face each other 13 times apiece instead of 19.
- New signings: Eflin, Pitcher Trevor Kelley.
- Key departures: Kevin Kiermaier, Brooks Raley, Ji-man Choi, Mike Zunino, Brett Phillips, Corey Kluber and Ryan Yarbrough.
Tampa Bay's home opener against Detroit is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. Thursday, March 30. To view the Rays' full schedule this season, click here.
The Associated Press and 10 Tampa Bay's Andrea Chu contributed to this report.