Someone tell Aaron Hicks it won't always be like this. Not every big-league pitcher is Justin Verlander.
Verlander, who finished first and second in the past two Cy Young votes, welcomed the Twins' rookie center fielder to the big leagues by striking him out three times Monday, and he had little trouble with Hicks' teammates, too. The Tigers' ace pitched five shutout innings and won for the first time in six Opening Day starts, and the Tigers disappointed an almost-frozen Target Field sellout with a 4-2 victory over the Twins.
Vance Worley allowed hits to six of the first 11 hitters he faced and fell behind 3-0 in his Minnesota debut. But Worley, acquired from Philadelphia last winter, rebounded by allowing just two singles to the next 16 Tigers, turning in an encouraging six-inning start. None of the last nine batters hit the ball out of the infield off Worley, who walked one and struck out three.
In temperatures that never climbed above 35 degrees, the Twins could do little against Verlander, who entered the game 0-1 in his five previous Opening Day starts. He gave up three hits, never more than one in an inning, and struck out seven. Twice he struck out Twins slugger Josh Willingham with a runner in scoring position, ending the third inning with a 95-mph fastball and the fifth on an 80-mph curve.
Once Verlander left, however, the Twins' offense returned. Minnesota loaded the bases in both the sixth and seventh innings against Tigers left-hander Drew Smyly. The Twins scored a run in the sixth on a wild pitch, but Wilkin Ramirez grounded out to end the threat. In the seventh, Ryan Doumit's single off Al Alburquerque closed the gap to 3-2, but Alburquerque struck out Trevor Plouffe and Chris Parmelee to escape with Verlander's win intact.
Hicks, playing his first major-league game without ever spending a day at Triple-A, finished the day 0-for-4 with a walk and three strikeouts.
The game missed being the coldest Opening Day in Twins history by just two degrees, but the Twins still sold 38,282 tickets and announced the game as a sellout. The 1962 opener at Metropolitan Stadium had a temperature of 33 degrees at first pitch.