For Jeremy Guthrie and Mark Hendrickson, Saturday was unforgettable. And it had nothing to do with the rain in Florida that wiped out four games.
The Baltimore Orioles chose Guthrie to start on opening day, giving the prestigious assignment to a pitcher with just 26 major league starts and seven wins.
The Florida Marlins decided to go with Hendrickson, who has a 5.01 career ERA and was signed in January to provide depth for an injury-ravaged rotation.
Guthrie, a rookie in 2007, moved to the front of the rotation when the Orioles traded ace Erik Bedard to Seattle.
"The guy certainly showed us what he can do last season. He's had a tremendous spring," manager Dave Trembley said before the Orioles and Marlins were rained out in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I think it's the right thing to do. I think it sets up the rest of the rotation the best possible way."
Guthrie will start at home against Tampa Bay on March 31.
A year ago, Guthrie fought his way onto the Orioles' staff after being claimed on waivers from Cleveland during the offseason. A first-round pick by the Indians in 2002, Guthrie moved into the Baltimore rotation by May, finishing the year at 7-5 with a 3.70 ERA in 32 appearances, including 26 starts.
"It's a great honor ... to have the confidence of (Trembley), and I felt the same from my team, from my teammates that they feel if I'm out there, we have a chance to win," Guthrie said.
The 28-year-old, who struck out 123 in 175 1-3 innings in 2007, was 6-5 with a 3.44 ERA as a starter, and allowed two or more runs in only three of his first 17 starts last year.
Right-hander Daniel Cabrera, left-hander Adam Loewen and right-hander Steve Trachsel, signed to a minor league contract with a spring training invitation, should be part of the starting five. The fifth starter's job is still up for grabs between right-hander Matt Albers and left-hander Brian Burres, or the Orioles could round out the rotation through a trade or waiver claim.
"I'm not close to it at all ... I'm going to wait until I say it," Trembley said.
In the other clubhouse, manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that Hendrickson would start the Marlins' season opener March 31 against the New York Mets at Dolphin Stadium.
"He pitched terrific in spring training and he's our veteran guy," Gonzalez said. "The way he's pitched in spring training, he deserves it."
The 33-year-old has a 1.69 ERA through four starts this spring. In his last outing, March 18 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 6-foot-9 lefty gave up three hits in six scoreless innings.
"It's a nice honor. It's not something that many pitchers can say they got an opportunity to do. For me, I'm just going to approach it like any other start," Hendrickson said.
One of 11 players to suit up in both the NBA and Major League Baseball, Hendrickson was 4-8 with a 5.21 ERA for the Dodgers in 2007. He signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with the Marlins in January to add an innings-eating veteran to a young rotation.
In other news, three-time All-Star Javy Lopez retired after being reassigned to the Atlanta Braves' minor league camp, ending his bid to return to the majors as a backup catcher.
Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano didn't start because of back stiffness but said he'd be ready to go Sunday. Manager Joe Girardi said he wasn't concerned.
St. Louis starter Mark Mulder took another positive step in his comeback, facing hitters for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in September.
Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent played in a simulated game and also did some light running, but manager Joe Torre said Kent wasn't running freely and likely wouldn't be ready to play until next week at the earliest.
And Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez will see a specialist on Monday to try to determine the cause of shoulder pain that has limited the two-time All-Star infielder to only two appearances in the field this spring.
GW, ST. JOE'S OPEN NATS' NEW PARK: A week before the Washington Nationals' new ballpark officially opens, the George Washington Colonials and St. Joseph's Hawks pleased their fans with a test run.
The hometown Colonials christened the 41,000-seat, $611 million Nationals Park with a 9-4 win over the Hawks on a cool, overcast Saturday afternoon. The Nationals host the Atlanta Braves on March 30. They will debut in the park the evening before in their preseason finale against the Baltimore Orioles.
Tickets to Saturday's game were free but limited to students, staff and alumni of each school. Fans filled the only places they were permitted to sit in the not-quite-finished park three sections behind each dugout in the lower bowl. Many said they were glad to get a sneak peak of the park, located on the Anacostia River, 13 blocks south of the Capitol.
"In the future they'll say, 'Who was the first game here?' and they'll say, 'Oh it was probably a Nationals game," said Karl Boettcher, a George Washington alumnus. "It was actually a GW (game). It'll be a trivia question."
The Colonials' Charlie Kruer registered the first hit in the park, a grounder off Jason Hessler down the third-base line in the first inning. Kruer then scored the first run when Andrew Abokhair hit the ball off Hessler's shoulder and into left field.