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Webb to start fourth straight opener

PHOENIX – Brandon Webb will be the opening day starter for the Arizona Diamondbacks for the fourth straight season. For once, though, he’ll be at home.

The Arizona ace takes the mound against Colorado’s Aaron Cook on Monday when the Diamondbacks open their season at home for the first time since 2005.

It’s the first of 18 home games – out of 22 overall – in April for Arizona, beginning with a nine-game stand that includes visits by the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.

First, though, it’s the Rockies and Cook. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Colorado staff with Jeff Francis out because of season-ending shoulder surgery.

It will be the second opening day start for Cook (16-9, 3.96 ERA), who had a career-high in wins last year. His first opening day start was two seasons ago.

“It’s part of the maturing process,” Cook said before the Rockies worked out at Chase Field on Sunday.

Webb (22-7, 3.30 ERA) led the NL in victories last year and was runner-up for the Cy Young Award for the second season in a row. He won it in 2006. With one of the best 1-2 pitching punches in baseball, Arizona will send Dan Haren (16-8, 3.33) to the mound against Colorado on Tuesday night.

“We expect our pitching to be our strength, especially our starting pitching,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “That is the way it has been around here for a while.”

Melvin’s opening day lineup will be a bit different than his normal everyday look. He will start Eric Byrnes in right field in place of Justin Upton and shift Chad Tracy from first base to third, with ex-Arizona Wildcat Tony Clark getting the start at first.

Upton and regular third baseman Mark Reynolds will sit, but only for one day, Melvin said.

“I talked early on this spring about getting some left-handed bats in against some of the tougher right-handed pitchers in the league,” Melvin said, “and this guy profiles out as that. Tony’s got a couple of homers off him, Byrnsie hits over .300 against him. So I talked to Mark and Justin (Sunday). Obviously they want to play, but they understand.”

Melvin expects Reynolds and Upton to be back in the lineup Tuesday night against Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez (12-12, 3.99). Melvin said the lineup changes are an example of the team’s versatility.

“It’s a little coincidental that it’s opening day that I get an extra left-handed bat in there,” he said. “But Chad’s healthy enough to do it at third. We have a left-hander on the third game in (Franklin) Morales, so you’ll see a lot of right-handed bats in there.”



Colorado at Arizona, 12:40 p.m. Monday, Chase Field TV: FSNA Radio: 1490 AM

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