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Bar raised for locals after past year's success

Expectations are high for individuals and teams with local connections as season gets underway.

April 03, 2012|By Gabriel Rizk

Recent success, both on the team and individual levels, for locals in Major League Baseball has upped the ante.

As the season begins in earnest over the next three days — the official season opener between the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners was played in Tokyo over a week ago — Glendale native Brandon McCarthy grapples with the expectations fostered by last year's career season as he assumes the role of leader of the Athletics' untested rotation. Former Glendale Community College standout Marco Estrada and the Milwaukee Brewers won a division title and went far in the playoffs and are under pressure to repeat even though they've since lost their best player.

And in San Francisco, the honeymoon of the Giants' historic 2010 World Series win has worn off and former Vaquero Freddy Sanchez and Co. must focus on making another run while their core remains intact.

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The following are previews of each of the homegrown major leaguers who figure to see action this season.

MCCARTHY TAKES

PLACE AS A'S ACE

Last season, McCarthy had to win a spring training battle just to pin down the fifth spot in the Athletics' rotation.

After an outstanding year in his first season with the A's, in which he posted career-bests with nine wins, a 3.32 earned-run average, 123 strikeouts, 170 2/3 innings pitched and five complete games, McCarthy now finds himself at the top of the rotation and with expectations considerably higher.

So far, he's off to a great start, pitching seven strong innings with one earned run allowed on six hits in a no-decision in an Opening Day performance on March 28 against the Mariners.

Even if McCarthy, a right-hander, is able to duplicate last season's success and lead the A's pitching staff as expected, Oakland, which last made the postseason in 2006, still has its work cut out in trying to compete for a playoff berth in the American League West Division. The Texas Rangers have won the division two years in a row en route to back-to-back World Series appearances and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim bolstered their roster in the offseason with the acquisition of the free-agent class' best pitcher, CJ Wilson, and position player, three-time former National League MVP Albert Pujols, who's fresh off leading theSt. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title.

McCarthy is set to start the Athletics' home opener on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. PDT against the Mariners.

ESTRADA FITS IN

BREWERS' PEN

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