ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Gwynn Jr. last started in a major-league game 20 months ago, but he carved a niche this spring in Ryne Sandberg's eyes as an ideal National League player. He plays good defense. He runs well. He can handle the bat.
His glove is what earned him a start on opening day at Globe Life Park, where he will man left field. Domonic Brown is the designated hitter in this all-too-weird American League opener for the Phillies.
Gwynn did not appear in a game at all last season. He languished at the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, and never earned a promotion despite hitting .300. His last major-league start was July 26, 2012 in left field for Los Angeles.
Brown battled flu-like symptoms for the final week of spring training. That could have played into Sandberg's decision. But Gwynn is a superior fielder, and this is what the designated hitter is for. Texas will start Tanner Scheppers, a righty, and Gwynn was the lone lefthanded reserve bat.