July 24, 2014

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A day like no other: Indians excited to start the season

Cleveland Indians' Nick Swisher does a little bat tapping around the batting cage Saturday in San Diego.  (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Cleveland Indians’ Nick Swisher does a little bat tapping around the batting cage Saturday in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

CLEVELAND — It’s an event like no other for baseball players and fans: Opening Day.

For the Indians, it’s actually Opening Night, with Cleveland beginning its quest to return to the postseason for the second straight year at 10:05 p.m. against the A’s at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif.

“It’s one of the best days,” Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said of Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. “It’s probably the most fun day of the season. People haven’t had baseball in a long time and it’s their first chance to get back to the stadium. It’s go time from there.”

Going for the Indians for the third consecutive time on Opening Day is ace Justin Masterson, who looks to build on his first All-Star season last year, while getting his team off to a winning start.

“You want to be that Opening Day guy, you want to go out and set the tone for the year,” said Masterson, who pitched well in his first two Opening Day assignments for Cleveland. “It’s just neat. It’s the one day that everyone is just pumped up, no matter what team you are. It’s a little bit of an honor to be able to go out there and set the tone.”

It’s a tough start to the season for the Indians, who not only have to travel across the country for a three-game series before returning to Cleveland for the home opener April 4, but also face an Oakland team that is bidding for its third straight American League West Division title.

Still, the opponent hardly matters. It’s all about pomp and circumstance on the regular-season’s first day.

“Opening Day, man, you’re like a little kid,” first baseman Nick Swisher said. “You’re floating on clouds all day. At that point right there, everybody starts out the same. Everybody’s 0-0, and then we just grind out 162 from there. Opening Day, it’s like no other.”

“Opening Day for everybody, I don’t care how many years you do it, it’s mostly excitement,” said manager Terry Francona, who embarks on his second season in Cleveland after winning American League Manager of the Year honors during his debut last year. “The idea is to get into the grind of the season, because then you can find out how good you can be.”

Though the games didn’t count, the Indians looked pretty good this spring in Arizona, where they posted the majors’ second-best exhibition record (20-9). It’s put them in the right frame of mind to begin the marathon schedule, according to Swisher.

“With exactly how the spring has gone, we’ve got to be super happy about that,” Swisher said. “Whether it’s spring training or not, I think winning baseball games is important, especially with where we’re trying to take this organization.”

That would be back to the postseason.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

TONIGHT
WHO: Cleveland vs. Oakland
TIME: 10:05
WHERE: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
PITCHERS: Masterson (14-10, 3.45 ERA) vs. Gray (5-3, 2.67)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM