Lopez gets plum opening assignment

Lopez rewarded with Opening Day honor

The Orioles will start the 2006 season by putting their best arm forward. Rodrigo Lopez gets the ball on Opening Day for the third time in his five years with Baltimore, and he's won at least 14 games in three of the last four seasons. The right-hander has posted a 51-40 record over the last four years, and he's done it for a team that racked up a 290-358 record.

"It wasn't taken lightly. You reward the people that are supposed to be rewarded, and he was the right guy for this particular spot," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo. "He's got a lot of confidence. He's a smart pitcher. I think he's learned how to compete and he's learned how to win with his lesser stuff. ... He knows what's working for him that night and he goes to it."

Lopez started the most games (35) in the American League last year, but he had a glaring disparity between the first half and the second. Lopez was 8-5 with a 4.47 ERA before the All-Star break, but he had a 7-7 record and a 5.44 mark afterwards. The O's dipped along with him, posting a 47-40 mark in the first half and a 27-48 record in the second.

In his career, Lopez has pitched well at Camden Yards, notching a 26-18 record with a 4.18 ERA. He also has a 15-10 record in the other AL East stadiums. Lopez is 4-2 in his last six decisions against Tampa Bay.

The Devil Rays will counter with Scott Kazmir, who has pitched well in his brief big-league career. The 22-year-old is 12-12 with a 4.06 ERA in 40 career games at the big-league level. Kazmir went 3-7 before the All-Star break and 7-2 after it, and his ERA was nearly two runs lower after the break than it was before (2.79 compared to 4.59).

Baltimore has a 69-62 record against Tampa Bay, but over the last two seasons, the Orioles are 23-14 against the Devil Rays. Things are even more one-sided at Camden Yards, where the O's haven't lost the season series to the Rays since 1998. Overall, Baltimore is 37-28 at home against Tampa Bay.

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Rodrigo Lopez
• 15-12, 4.90 ERA in 2005
• 2-1, 4.71 ERA in 2005 vs. TB
• 8-4, 3.55 ERA lifetime vs. TB

TB: LHP Scott Kazmir
• 10-9, 3.77 ERA in 2005
• 2-1, 3.33 ERA in 2005 vs. BAL
• 2-1, 3.33 ERA lifetime vs. BAL

  Orioles probable lineup
 Pos.Name
1.2BBrian Roberts
2.3BMelvin Mora
3.SSMiguel Tejada
4.RFJay Gibbons
5.DHJavy Lopez
6.1BJeff Conine
7.LFKevin Millar
8.CRamon Hernandez
9.CFCorey Patterson
PRodrigo Lopez

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
BAL: WJZ
TB: FSN

On radio
BAL: WBAL 1090 AM
TB: WHNZ 1250 AM

On deck
• Wednesday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: vs. Tampa Bay, 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: vs. Boston, 7:05 p.m. ET

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.