HOUSTON -- Lance Berkman was at Minute Maid Park in a season opener for the eighth time in his career, but this is the first time that he was playing against the Astros. Berkman spent 12 years with the Astros before being traded to the Yankees on July 31, 2010. He spent 2011-12 with the Cardinals before signing with the Rangers.
Sunday night marked the 10th game Berkman has played against his former team, and he still makes his home in Houston. He also made a little history as he was the first designated hitter to come to the plate in the former National League ballpark, grounding out to shortstop to end the top of the first inning.
Berkman got his first hit with the Rangers on a single in the fourth. He also singled and scored in the sixth, finishing 2-for-4 in the Rangers' 8-2 loss.
"It's always different coming back as a visiting guy," Berkman said. "I remember the first time with the Cardinals, I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know what kind of reception I would get. All of that is behind me. It's not that I don't get emotional still, but it's not as big as the first time."
The Astros traded Berkman to the Yankees at the beginning of what has been a massive rebuilding program. He had a no-trade clause that he exercised to stop trades to the Angels and White Sox before agreeing to the Yankees. Most fans did not hold it against him and he is usually well-received in his hometown.
"Very few circumstances where a player leaves a team is everybody happy," Berkman said. "It's almost never a good break. I felt a little animosity my last year here and I had no idea what the reception would be. I saw Billy Wagner and Carlos Beltran leave and come back and get booed. Nobody wants to get booed, especially in their hometown, but the reception has been great."
The Astros moved to the American League this season and there were some discussions about re-signing him as their designated hitter. But it never got very far.
"The Astros never made me an offer," Berkman said. "I never had a chance to accept or reject an offer. There was some genuine interest, but the Rangers had a higher level of interest. It made more sense for both sides to do it this way. It didn't make a lot of sense to spend a lot of money on a DH when they had other bigger needs."
Rangers give Martin opening nod in center field
HOUSTON -- Leonys Martin was in center field for the Rangers on Sunday night with right-hander Bud Norris on the mound for the Astros. Manager Ron Washington said Martin got the start over Craig Gentry because he wanted the left-handed hitter in there against the right-handed pitcher.
But Washington is still not committed to a platoon situation even though Gentry hits right-handed. The Astros have three right-handers pitching in this series with Lucas Harrell and Philip Humber scheduled to pitch Tuesday and Wednesday. Washington said he expects Gentry to start one of those games.
"I don't know how it will work, but he'll play here," Washington said. "Gentry and Martin both had great springs. You can't go wrong with either one. They both deserve to play. You can't put both of them out there."
Martin went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the Rangers' 8-2 loss to the Astros.
Gentry was on the Opening Day roster in 2012 and did not start. Instead he went into the game late as a defensive replacement. This is the first time Martin has been on the Rangers' Opening Day roster.
"This is an opportunity I will never forget," Martin said. "This is a dream of mine. It's very exciting, something I will never forget."
The Rangers were expected to start Martin in the first game. The only real twist in the anticipated season-opening lineup is David Murphy was in the fifth spot and Nelson Cruz was batting sixth. Washington said he wanted to break up his run of right-handed hitters at the top of the lineup and left-handed hitters at the bottom.
Washington said he doesn't know if that's going to be a permanent arrangement.
"I'm going to try it right now," Washington said.
Moreland in Rangers' opening nine for first time
HOUSTON -- Sunday night marked Mitch Moreland's third Opening Day with the Rangers but the first time he was in the starting lineup. This was also the first time in three years the Rangers have faced a right-hander in the season opener.
They went against Jon Lester of the Red Sox in 2011 and John Danks with the White Sox last season, so Mike Napoli started at first base. Moreland did not get off the bench for either game. The Astros had right-hander Bud Norris on the mound Sunday night, although the Rangers no longer consider Moreland a platoon player.
"I'm looking forward to it," Moreland said. "I've had the opportunity to be on the team for Opening Day, but I have never had the opportunity to start. It's something new so it should be fun.
"We've been playing for two months, it seems like, but it is Opening Day so it gets you fired up and ready to go. So I'm going to try and have fun and enjoy it."
Moreland finished 0-for-4 from the eighth spot in the Rangers' 8-2 loss.
Other Opening Day lineup notes:
• Lance Berkman is the 13th designated hitter in the last 16 years for the Rangers on Opening Day. Since Mickey Tettleton started at DH in 1995-97, only Rafael Palmeiro (1999-2000), Frank Catalanotto (2002, 2007) and Michael Young (2011-12) have started there on two Opening Days.
• Elvis Andrus started his fifth straight Opening Day at shortstop. He ties Toby Harrah (1972-76) and Young (2004-08) for most Opening Day starts for the Rangers at the position.
• Nelson Cruz made his fifth straight Opening Day start in right field, the most since Ruben Sierra started in six straight from 1987-92. Juan Gonzalez had five Opening Day starts in right field but never more than two in a row at the position.
• Ian Kinsler made his seventh Opening Day start. That's the most for a second baseman and tied for the ninth most in club history. Young holds the record with 11 Opening Day starts before being traded to the Phillies this past winter. Kinsler missed Opening Day in 2010 because he was on the disabled list with a sprained ankle.
• Sunday marked the first time the Rangers have opened on the road in the Central time zone and the first time they have ever had Opening Day on Easter.
• Outfielder David Murphy is from Houston, but Sunday was only the second time he has been at Minute Maid Park for Opening Day. Murphy was at Opening Day in 1997 but apparently wasn't into cutting school to make other games. Said Murphy, "I wasn't a rule-breaker."
• Infielder Leury Garcia on his first Opening Day as a Major Leaguer, "This is the best thing that ever happened to me. It's the goal of every player to get to the Major Leagues, especially on Opening Day, I don't have any idea when I will play, but when they do play me, I'll be ready."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.