The first set of “Opening Days’ have now completed, and fans are already hammering on message boards about bullpen struggles, hitting woes and strategical miscalculations (the decision to have CC Sabathia intentionally walk the bases loaded for Carlos Pena ended, shall we say, terribly on Saturday). This week, fans in the remaining ballparks will have their chance to show civic pride and cheer their heroes.

Go slowly. It’s a long haul.

In case you missed any of this weekend’s hardball action because of family responsibilities, holiday celebrations or immersion in other sports (Bubba!), let me give you a quick look-see some of the good, bad and ugly on the diamond.

—————————–

Jon Niese, SP, NYM: Niese celebrated his new contract with a win over the Braves to complete the sweep. He allowed four runs (two earned) on two hits and four walks in six innings. He also struck out seven batters.

Mike Minor, SP, ATL: Prospect Mike Minor struggled in his first start of the year. He allowed six earned runs on six hits and four walks in just five innings pitched. He did strike out six hitters, but only 62 of his 104 pitches went for strikes.

Jeremy Hellickson, SP, TB: Hellickson made the big pitches when it counted against the Yankees to finish off the three-game home sweep. He pitched 8 2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing three hits and four walks against four strikeouts. It should be noted that he tossed 52 balls against 66 strikes. That ratio sets up potential danger down the line.

Jeff Samardzija, SP, CHC: Samardzija was a polarizing figure among execs and fans coming into the season. Where did he fit in the staff plans? Samardzija posted a strong spring and earned a spot in the rotation. He baffled the Nationals on Sunday. He allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits in seven innings of work with four strikeouts.

Carlos Marmol, RP, CHC: Marmol has already been tagged with a loss and a blown save in his two outings. He’s surrendered three earned runs on four hits and two walks.

Yovani Gallardo, SP, MIL: Gallardo failed to survive the fourth inning in his first start of the year against St. Louis. He allowed not one, not two … but four home runs. Gallardo allowed six earned runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out three batters.

Boston starter Josh Beckett one-upped him by surrendering five home runs, part of a complete implosion by the Red Sox as they were swept by the Tigers.

The Baltimore Orioles are sitting atop the AL East with the Rays at 3-0. The Red Sox and Yankees are at 0-3.

Baltimore Pitching Staff: Speaking of the Orioles … I know the Twins aren’t expected to have a world-beating offense, but would have anticipated that the Orioles would limit them to five runs in the three-game series? Jason Hammel, the former Rays prospect and Rockies hurler, entered the 2012 season with a bloated 4.99 career ERA. Hammel no-hit the Twins into the eighth inning. He left the game after eight innings, having allowed one earned run on two hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

———————

Yeonis Cespedes, OF, OAK: Cespedes has demonstrated great power out of the gate for the A’s. The cavernous Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum could not contain his mammoth shots, and he even did a little showboating. Cespedes has hit three home runs and a double in his 13 at-bats with seven RBI. I love the big fly as well, his strikeout rate (seven in those 13 at-bats) is daunting.

Carlos Santana, C, CLE: Santana homered twice in Sunday’s win over the Blue Jays.

Chone Figgins, 3B, SEA: Figgins posted back-to-back three-hit games to close out the opening four-game set (two in Japan) against the A’s. He batted .412 (7-for-17) with a stolen base.

Miguel Cabrera, 3B, DET: Cabrera’s return to third base had some concerned that his offensive production would experience a minor regression, and that was before the injury he experienced in spring training. Cabrera has been his usual self alongside Prince Fielder out of the gates, producing three home runs and eight RBI in the Tigers’ sweep of Boston.

Chicago White Sox Batters: The Rangers limited the White Sox to five runs in the three-game series, including Sunday’s 5-0 shutout. Chicago managed a dismal .197 composite batting average (13-for-66), and just three players recorded multiple hits (Paul Konerko went 4-for-8 in the series). White Sox batters struck out 23 times in the three-game series.

———————————-