HAINES CITY, FLA. For the second straight year, Jeff Suppan has been selected to start the Kansas City Royals season opener, but he is not ready to be labeled an ace.
Roger Clemens, who has won five Cy Young awards, will pitch for New York in the April 2 opener at Yankee Stadium.
"To me that's a true ace," Suppan said of Clemens.
Suppan, 26, has won 10 games each of the past two seasons and has a 30-34 record with a 5.15 ERA in 123 big league games. The Royals hope he's on the verge of developing into an ace.
Suppan was the Royals pitcher of the year for 2000, leading the staff in victories, starts (33) and innings (217).
Suppan gave up four runs on five hits in five innings in his Opening Day start last year, a no-decision at Toronto. Suppan was sick and left after 80 pitches.
Suppan was 2-6 with a 5.84 ERA at the All-Star break last season and was dispatched to the bullpen on July 4. After two relief appearances, he was placed back in the rotation on July 15. He went 8-3 with a 3.99 ERA the second half, including shutting out Detroit on six hits in his final start.
"My goal is to have a consistent year, two good halves, that's what I'm working for," he said. Baseball on page 8C.