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Posted: Thursday April 5, 2012 12:13PM ; Updated: Thursday April 5, 2012 8:25PM

Opening Day live blog (cont.)

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1:18 p.m.

Citi Field
Citi Field is only entering its fourth season but has already undergone some serious changes.
AP

Two first pitches were of note today. Gary Carter's widow and three children tossed the ceremonial type to four of Carter's former teammates: Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Mookie Wilson.

A few minutes later Johan Santana threw his first major-league pitch in 581 days: an 87-mile-per-hour fastball for a ball to Braves leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, who later grounded out to first baseman Ike Davis (playing his first game since suffering an ankle injury on May 10 of last year). -- Joe Lemire

1:16 p.m.

Easy, nine-pitch, 1-2-3 first inning for Verlander, whose fastball was sitting 91-92. Two soft flies to left and an infield pop-up. -- Cliff Corcoran

1:10 p.m.

The first pitch from last year's AL MVP (Verlander) to the runner-up (Jacoby Ellsbury) is a 91 mph fastball for a strike on the outside corner at the knee and we're underway on Opening Day. -- Cliff Corcoran

1:08 p.m.

Opening Day ceremonies never get old, and today's pregame rites in Queens were especially profound as the Mets celebrate their 50th Anniversary.

Among the introductions of players, coaches and staff was rousing applause for new third base coach -- and member of the Mets' 1986 World Series championship team -- Tim Teufel.

Hall of Famer player and longtime Mets broadcaster Ralph Kiner read the home team's starting lineup. He received the first standing ovation, and the fans remained on their feet, culminating in cheers for Johan Santana, who'll take a major league mound for the first time in 19 months.

The pregame highlight, however, was the unveiling of the season-long tribute for Gary Carter. The logo, a black home plate with white trim and Carter's nickname and number, "Kid 8," will be worn as a patch on the uniform's right sleeve and as a decoration on the left-centerfield wall. His widow and children were on hand for the occasion. -- Joe Lemire

12:44 p.m.

The first game of the day finds the Red Sox visiting the Tigers in a matchup of aces with Boston lefty Jon Lester (15-9, 3.47 ERA in 2011) facing off against last year's American League Most Valuable Player Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40). You can read my extended take on this matchup in my preview of today's action.

This game also marks Prince Fielder's regular season debut with Detroit and finds him hitting cleanup behind Miguel Cabrera in a lineup that pushes lefty catcher Alex Avila down to eighth in the lineup and puts Ramon Santiago at second with Ryan Raburn moving to designated hitter in place of left-handed option Andy Dirks. The Red Sox' lineup is familiar one-through-five, but finishes with Ryan Sweeney (RF), Cody Ross (LF), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) and Mike Aviles (SS), a sequence that has led to a lot of the pessimism about their 2012 outlook. -- Cliff Corcoran

12:05 p.m.

Hello from sunny, cool, remodeled Citi Field and welcome to SI.com's live blog of Opening Day (Part III of IV).

Gametime temperature will be in the low 50s for Mets ace Johan Santana's first big-league start since Sept. 2, 2010 and the Braves' first game since last season's Game 162 loss, in which they blew a ninth-inning lead and lost in 13 to miss out on the playoffs.

But the most important number of the day is eight.

During warm-ups and batting practice all of the Mets wore Gary Carter's No. 8 jersey in a very nice tribute to the Hall of Fame catcher and Mets icon who passed away this offseason. Manager Terry Collins, speaking for the organization, called it an "honor" to wear the jersey.

Eight also happens to be the number of feet by which the leftfield wall was reduced (from 16 to eight) in an offseason remodeling. Though the corner dimensions remain the same (335 to left, 330 to right), the outfield walls in the gaps were moved in nearly 20 feet in certain areas.

The Mets' internal study, as reported by mlb.com, projected that there would have been 151 more home runs -- 81 for the Mets, 70 for opponents -- had the new configuration of Citi been in place over the past three seasons. New York hit 162 homers at home in the first three seasons of Citi Field, the fewest by any major league club in its home ballpark. The Mets' outfield defense, a weakness last year, should also be improved given the smaller area the players have to cover. -- Joe Lemire

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