The Associated Press
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Baseball picks up right where it left off last fall, in Anaheim, with John Lackey on the mound for the Angels before a lively crowd bearing ThunderStix - and more than a barrel full of Rally Monkeys.
The World Series champion Angels and Texas Rangers start the season today, a day ahead of everyone else. The originally scheduled opening series in Tokyo between Seattle and Oakland was called off because of the war in Iraq.
Angels fans will get their first chance to cheer the defending champions.
"It's going to be new territory for everybody. I think it's going to be tough to re-create that feeling, but I think that the excitement among the fans is very evident, just from walking down the street and talking to people," Darin Erstad said. "They're very excited about the season and they feel like we do. They want to do it again."
The Angels beat the San Francisco Giants 4-1 in Game 7 of the World Series last Oct. 27 to win the first title in the club's 42-year history. Lackey started the game and became the first rookie to win a World Series Game 7 since Babe Adams in 1909.
BRAVES: Mike Hampton joined Paul Byrd on the disabled list Saturday, another blow to the Atlanta Braves' starting rotation heading into the start of the season.
Hampton strained his right calf during a workout on a treadmill Friday night and Byrd has a sore elbow. That leaves the Braves to open with a rotation of Greg Maddux, Russ Ortiz, rookie Horacio Ramirez and Jason Marquis.
"I feel terrible because I want to get in here right away and get off to a good start and help this team," Hampton said. "That's kind of a wash now."
Hampton, who expects to be sidelined until mid-April, said he was 17 minutes into a 20-minute routine on the treadmill when he felt a sharp pain in his right calf.
"I knew exactly what it was when I did it," he said, adding he had the same injury two years ago before his first season with the Colorado Rockies.
Braves manager Bobby Cox will use a four-man rotation for the first week or so, hoping Byrd will be available by April 10. Byrd is eligible to come off the DL on April 5, Hampton on April 12.
"We've got it covered. We'll be all right," Cox said.
SATURDAY'S HIGHLIGHTS: Sammy Sosa, who needs one regular-season home run to reach 500, wrapped up his spring by going 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBI in the Chicago Cubs' 3-2 victory over Arizona.
Mark Redman pitched seven shutout innings as Florida won 4-3 over the Carolina Mudcats, their Double-A affiliate.
Torii Hunter, Doug Mientkewicz and Denny Hocking homered as Minnesota beat Milwaukee 4-0.
Shawn Chacon capped a stellar spring by pitching five strong innings as Colorado beat Kansas City 7-3.
Toronto's Tanyon Sturtze allowed nine runs and 12 hits in four innings as the Blue Jays tied Tampa Bay 12-12.
Jay Gibbons, Jerry Hairston, Gary Matthews Jr. and Melvin Mora homered as Baltimore beat the New York Mets 7-3.
Todd Zeile hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh inning as the New York Yankees beat Philadelphia 4-3.
Josh Fogg became the first Pittsburgh pitcher since 1996 as the Pirates beat Detroit 8-3.
Shea Hillenbrand drove in two runs as Boston beat Atlanta 2-1.
Today's MLB opener
Matchup: Anaheim Angels vs. Texas Rangers
Where: Anaheim, Calif.
Time/TV: 8 p.m./ESPN
Records last year: Angels 99-63; Rangers 72-90
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