One of the great honors in baseball is to be handed the ball by your manager and deemed the Opening Day starter for your ballclub. It is a position of prestige, responsibility, and great lineage to take on. Which pitchers have taken on this responsibility the most in MLB history? Ranging from Hall of Famers to some familiar, durable blasts from the past, here is a look at each MLB franchise’s most frequent carrier of this honor.

 

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After signing in Arizona ahead of the franchise’s second season in 1999, Johnson made six consecutive Opening Day starts. Between ’99 and 2004, these would be the beginning of four straight Cy Young Award campaigns as well. Overall, the Big Unit was 3-2 on Opening Day for Arizona.

 

Atlanta Braves: Phil Niekro (8)

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It was not one of the big three of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, or John Smoltz, nor was it 363 game-winner Warren Spahn that holds this distinction. Instead, it is Hall of Famer Phil Niekro that has started the season off the most time for pitching-rich Braves. Between 1970 and 1983, the knuckleballer made eight Opening Day starts, one more than Maddux. However, Niekro never won in any of these eight appearances.

 

Baltimore Orioles: Jim Palmer & Mike Mussina (6)

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It comes as no surprise that both Palmer (above) and Mussina share this distinction, as the two Hall of Famers are the atop many of the Orioles’ all-time pitching records. Palmer took the hill on Opening Day in six out of seven seasons between 1975 and 1980, interrupted only by Mike Flanagan in 1978. Mussina enjoyed a similar run of six out of seven seasons between 1994 and 2000, interrupted only by Jimmy Key in 1997 when Moose was unable to pitch due to elbow tendonitis.

 

Boston Red Sox: Roger Clemens (8)

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The Rocket edges Pedro Martinez by one start and Cy Young himself by two to hold the Red Sox all-time record. Clemens opened every season for the Red Sox between 1988 and 1994, before having his streak ended at seven due to shoulder tendonitis that kept him out of action until June 1995. In 1996, he made his franchise-record eight Opening Day start in his final season in Boston. Overall, he was 3-2 with three no-decisions starting the season.

 

Chicago Cubs: Ferguson Jenkins (7)

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Jenkins spent parts of 10 seasons with the Cubs, becoming a six-time 20 game-winner in the process. He opened the season on the mound in six of seven seasons between 1967 and 1973, five coming consecutively from 1969 to ’73. After a stint with the Texas Rangers, Fergie returned to the Cubs to for the final two seasons of his career and made his seventh Opening Day appearance in 1983.

 

Chicago White Sox: Mark Buehrle (9)

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Buehrle got the call for Opening Day in nine of his 12 seasons in Chicago, two more occasions than any other pitcher in club history. Between 2002 and 2011, only Jose Contreras made it to the mound in a season for the Sox before Buehrle did. Overall, he was 4-2 with three no-decisions and a part of two season-opening shutouts for Chicago.

 

Cincinnati Reds: Mario Soto (6)

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Soto spent his entire 12-year career with the Reds from 1977 to 1988, becoming a three-time All-Star in the process. While he won over 15 games only twice, his dependable presence (3.47 career ERA) made him a solid choice to start the season off throughout the 1980s. He made five consecutive Opening Day appearances between 1982 and ’86, then again in 1988. He was successful in the role as well, picking up the win four times against only one loss and a no-decision victory.

 

Cleveland Indians: Bob Feller (7)

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Feller has held the franchise record for Opening Day since 1949, the longest record run for any pitcher with any franchise. Feller got the ball first in 1939 through 1941, then again from 1946 to 1949. Had it not been for his three seasons away during service in World War II, he would have connected his two streaks and turned it into a decade of setting the table for the Indians’ seasons. In 1940, Feller threw the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history, winning 1-0 over the Chicago White Sox.

 

Colorado Rockies: Nine tied (2)

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When German Marquez takes the ball to open the season for the Rockies for the second-consecutive season in 2021, he’ll become the ninth pitcher in team history to do so twice – tying the franchise record in the process. Two Rockies multi-time Opening Day arms have gone on to be All-Stars, Mike Hampton in 2001 and Ubaldo Jimenez (above) in 2010, while another, Jorge De La Rosa, is the franchise’s all-time wins leader with 86. Others tied for the record include Jason Jennings, Kevin Ritz, Jon Gray, and the late Darryl Kile.

 

Detroit Tigers: Jack Morris (11)

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No other pitcher made an Opening Day start for the Tigers in the 1980s other than Morris, who ran his streak to 11 consecutive years in 1990. He went 7-4 over the course of the streak, picking up four straight wins between 1983 and ’86. Notably outside of his run in Detroit, Morris also set the MLB record for consecutive Opening Day starts with 14, after making three more appearances with the Twins and Blue Jays in 1991-93.

 

Houston Astros: Roy Oswalt (8)

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All eight of Oswalt’s franchise-record eight Opening Day appearances came consecutively, between 2003 and 2010. He holds the record over the trio of Mike Scott, J.R. Richard, and Shane Reynolds, each of whom have five to their credit. Although Oswalt would go on to become an All-Star in three of those seasons and the Astros would advance to the postseason in two, he only picked up the win in two of those eight campaigns, coming in 2006.

 

Kansas City Royals: Kevin Appier (7)

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Appier was the runaway ace on the Royals staff throughout the 1990s, and accordingly so got the call on Opening Day in seven of eight seasons between 1992 and 1999. Only Bret Saberhagen (1990-91) and Tim Belcher (1998) reached the mound in a season for KC before Appier did. One of the preeminent tough luck pitchers of his era, he went 1-4 in season-opening starts, albeit none of the losses were by more than three runs.

 

Los Angeles Angels: Jered Weaver (7)

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Weaver’s seven opening Day starts led the way for the Angels all-time, with six coming consecutively between 2010 and 2015. The Angels won four consecutive Weaver starts during this run, with him picking up the win on three of those occasions. This is a record that could have belonged to either Chuck Finley or Mark Langston, as well, as they often traded off starting seasons for the Halos in the late 80s and early 90s, as co-aces of the staff.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw (9)

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When Kershaw takes the ball to start the Dodgers’ World Series defense this year, it will extend his franchise record for Opening Day starts to nine, the most among any active pitcher. It will also be his first time taking the hill start the season since 2018, the year he took over the record from Don Drysdale and Don Sutton. Kershaw made eight-consecutive Opening Day starts between 2011 and 2018, with his most memorable outing coming in 2013 when he threw a shutout and hit his first career home run versus the Giants.

 

Miami Marlins: Josh Beckett & Josh Johnson (2)

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Since the Marlins were founded in 1993, 17 different pitchers have taken the mound on Opening Day. Beckett and Johnson edged ahead of the pack, with each making three appearances, all consecutively. Beckett made his run between 2003 and 2005, going 2-1, while Johnson carried the mantle between 2010 and 2012, and going 1-2. When Sandy Alcantara takes the ball in 2021, he’ll become the 7 th Marlins pitcher with two consecutive Opening Day starts (not including Beckett or Johnson).

 

Milwaukee Brewers: Ben Sheets (6)

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Sheets made his first Opening Day appearance for the Brewers at the ripe old age of 23 in 2002 and on the heels of an All-Star rookie campaign the previous season. He would go on to start the next five seasons on the hill for the Brewers, before extending his record to six in 2007. Lifetime, he never was credited with a loss on Opening Day, going 3-0 with the Brewers winning five of his six outings.

 

Minnesota Twins: Brad Radke (9)

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Surprisingly, it is not Burt Blyleven or Frank Viola that holds this mark, nor is it Johan Santana or Jim Kaat. Instead, it is Radke, who took the ball first in eight out of nine seasons between 1996 and 2005. Over the course of the run, he went 4-2 with three no-decisions. It should be noted that this record applies only to the Twins Minnesota run, as their full franchise history runs back to their Washington Senators days, where the great Walter Johnson had an MLB record-tying 14 opening day appearances.

 

New York Mets: Tom Seaver (11)

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Between 1968 and 1977, no other pitcher took the ball for the Mets to open a season. Over the course of his run atop the Mets rotation, he went a record 6-0, with the Mets not losing to start a season over the course of his last nine Opening Day outings. Much to Tom Terrific’s credit, between 1968 and 1983, no Mets starting pitcher was credited with an Opening Day loss.

 

New York Yankees: Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre & Ron Guidry (7)

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Representing three distinctive eras in Yankee lore, this trio of hurlers each are tied for season-opening honors. Ford (above) made his first Opening Day start in 1954 and his final one in 1966. The following season, Stottlemyre made the first of four consecutive appearances and would hold the honors for six of the next seven years. Finally, starting in 1978, Guidry made his first Opening Day call to the mound and would do so in six of the next seven years.

 

Oakland Athletics: Dave Stewart (6)

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Outdoing Rick Langford by one appearance, it is Stewart who has gotten the call to the mound more than any other Oakland A’s hurler to start a season. He made five consecutive Opening Day appearances between 1988 and 1992, picking up a sixth in 1995. Stewart was some kind of lucky charm to jump-start a season, with the A’s advancing to the postseason four times and the World Series three times during his tenure.

 

Philadelphia Phillies: Steve Carlton (14)

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Carlton’s 14 Opening Day starts are the most in history for any active franchise and tied with fellow Hall of Famer Walter Johnson for the most by a pitcher all-time. Between 1972 and 1986, Lefty kicked off the season for the Phillies in all but once, when Jim Kaat did so in 1976. The Phillies are the only franchise in history with two pitchers to make double-digit Opening Day starts, with Robin Roberts having 12 of his own between 1950 and 1961, all consecutively.

 

Pittsburgh Pirates: Bob Friend (7)

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A vast variety of pitchers have taken to the mound on multiple occasions throughout the 139-year history of the Pirates. 16 different pitchers have made at least three Opening Day appearances, but it is Friend who has held the honor the most times. Between 1954 and 1962, he got the call seven times, with the Pirates going 3-4 with him on the hill to start the year.

 

San Diego Padres: Randy Jones, Eric Show & Jake Peavy (4)

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The trio owns the record with each holding Opening Day honors four times throughout their respective careers, it is Peavy (above) who has held the honor the most consecutive seasons. Peavy won his first three Opening Day starts by a total of 17-1 between 2006 and 2009. Since his final Opening Day start, only one other pitcher (Edinson Volquez) has strung together Opening Day starts for the team.

 

San Francisco Giants: Juan Marichal (10)

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Between 1962 and 1973, the great Marichal got the call to start the season in San Francisco on 10 different occasions, including six consecutively between 1964 and ’69. Only his Hall of Fame rotation mate Gaylord Perry interrupted the run in 1970. The Dominican great was his standard dominant self in these outings, going 6-2-2 lifetime in the role. Only Carl Hubbell in the franchise’s New York days comes with four outings of Marichal’s season-opening run atop the rotation.

 

St. Louis Cardinals: Bob Gibson (10)

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Gibson ensured the Cardinals’ seasons started off all about business on 10 different occasions over the course of his 17-year career with the team. He made every season-opening call between 1965 and 1975, with the exception of ’66 when an injury pushed his first start of the year back to the season’s third game – when he picked up the club’s only win in its first five games. Only Dizzy Dean and Adam Wainwright are even halfway to Gibson’s 10 season record in the role in franchise history.

 

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez (11)

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King Felix made his first Opening Day appearance as a 20-year-old in 2007, becoming the youngest pitcher since Dwight Gooden in 1985 to have Opening Day honors. He would strike out 12 over eight innings and pick up the first of his seven career Opening Day wins, tied for the most in MLB history. His 10 consecutive Opening Day starts are also an all-time record that he shares with Jack Morris and Tom Seaver.

 

Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields & Chris Archer (4)

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In the relatively young history of the Rays, they already own a pair of Cy Young Award winners from their ranks in David Price and Blake Snell. However, neither took the ball more than twice during their Rays tenure to start the season. Instead, it is Shields and Archer who share the distinction of most frequent Opening Day hurler, with four apiece. All four of Archer’s came consecutively between 2015 and ’18, while Shields did so in four of five seasons between 2008 and 2012.

 

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Texas Rangers: Charlie Hough (6)

Texas Rangers: Charlie Hough (6)

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The Rangers’ all-time leader in wins and innings pitched, the venerable knuckleballer Hough also is the most frequent Opening Day hurler in team history. Between 1982 and 1989, Hough got the ball six times to start the season, going 3-1 with two no-decisions in the process. Although he would pitch with the club through 1990, Nolan Ryan interrupted his run that season with the first of three consecutive Opening Day appearances he would make in Arlington.

 

Toronto Blue Jays: Roy Halladay (7)

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Doc Halladay made all seven of his Opening Day starts in Toronto consecutively, starting in 2003. He went 3-3 in the role for the Jays, with the outings being a starting point for five All-Star seasons and two 20-win campaigns for Halladay. Overall, he would make 10 consecutive Opening Day starts in his career, as he added on three more for the Phillies between 2010 and 2012.

 

Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer (7)

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Since arriving in Washington D.C. in 2015, Scherzer has started all but one Nationals’ season with the ball in his hand. When he takes the mound to start the 2021 season, he will extend his club record to six such starts, in which he has gone 1-3 in his career to date. If accounting for the club’s Montreal tenure, Scherzer still has a way to go before he passes Steve Rogers’ record of nine Opening Day appearances.