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Opening Day and Bryce Harper get along very well with each other.
Harper left the yard in Monday’s win over the Marlins, taking David Phelps deep in the sixth inning with a solo blast. Rather unbelievably, Harper has now hit five longballs on Opening Day, including one in each of the last three seasons. He’s only played on Opening Day five times. He’s also just 24 years old.
We probably should have seen this coming not so much because of Harper’s Opening Day history, but rather because Harper appeared to be locked in all spring with a .310/.423/.793 batting line and a Grapefruit League-leading (tied with Greg Bird) eight homers. He also looks to be healthy after last year’s shoulder issues. A big bounce-back season from the former MVP could be in the offing.
Harper's heroics aside, the best thing that happened with the Nationals on Monday might have been what occurred in the ninth inning. There was much hullabaloo made about the Nats’ closer situation in spring training, as the club declared the job an open competition after they failed to land a marquee closer over the offseason.
Blake Treinen was ultimately named the ninth-inning man in a surprising decision from manager Dusty Baker, and for at least one game anyway the reliever rewarded the skipper’s confidence. Treinen retired the Marlins in order on 17 pitches, recording a pair of strikeouts along the way while using a 97-99 mph hard-diving sinker and a filthy slider.
You could argue that Koda Glover or Shawn Kelley might have been better choices for the closing gig. However, Treinen certainly is talented enough to hang on to the job.
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Guerra Goes Down
Junior Guerra certainly took a long and winding road in his career before becoming the Brewers’ Opening Day starter. Unfortunately, he’s now taking another detour, and it’s to the disabled list.
Guerra strained his right calf as he exited the batter’s box following a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the third inning of Monday’s loss to the Rockies. The right-hander was limping badly as he walked off the field and was using crutches to get around in the clubhouse after the game. He’ll have to be examined further, but it looks like something that could sideline Guerra for a while.
"It's a big blow, for sure," said manager Craig Counsell, who conceded that it would not be a minimum stay on the 10-day DL for Guerra. "It kind of starts the process of what we've preached in spring training. It's not going to be 25 guys, it's not going to be five starters, it's not going to be eight relievers. It's going to take more than that and we're going to start seeing that [Tuesday]."
Guerra entered the season as somewhat of a wild card given his unique background that saw stops in indy ball and in Mexico, but he used a nasty splitter on his way to a 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 100/43 K/BB ratio over 121 2/3 innings in his 20 starts for the Brew Crew last season. The 32-year-old should deliver some mixed league value again in 2017, but we’ll have to wait a bit for him now.
Taking Guerra’s spot in the rotation will likely be Tommy Milone, who yielded a pair of runs across two innings in relief of Guerra on Monday. The left-hander is slated to serve as the Brewers’ long reliever this season, but he obviously has plenty of starting experience with 118 of his 130 career appearances coming in the rotation. Matt Garza could also eventually become an option depending on how much time Guerra misses, but the veteran righty seems unlikely to return from his groin injury before the end of April.
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We’re just a couple days into the season, but one closer might already be close to losing his job, another got an unexpected opportunity and a third seems to have lost the gig without ever apparently having it to begin with.
Jeanmar Gomez managed to close out the Phillies’ 4-3 victory over the Reds on Monday, but it didn’t come without a sweat. The closer recorded two outs after giving up a leadoff single to Scott Schebler, but he then served up a two-out, two-run dinger to Scooter Gennett. Billy Hamilton then flew out to end the contest.
After the game, manager Pete Mackanin didn’t exactly give his closer a ringing endorsement.
"I'm concerned," Mackanin said. "I had two guys up in the 'pen in that ninth inning [Joely Rodriguez and Pat Neshek]. He's just not getting the ball down the way he did when he was successful. I want to make sure that he gets opportunities, but at the same time, I don't want to let games slip away. He has to execute. Like I said, for me, he's earned the right to be the closer for right now. But he's got to get the ball down."
Of course, we didn’t need Gomez’s shaky performance Monday to know he was going into the season on thin ice. The right-hander had an improbable run as the Philly closer last season for the bulk of the year, but he finished on an awful note with a 19.13 September ERA. Gomez profiles as a middle reliever, and in all likelihood that’s probably the role he’ll be in sooner rather than later. Both Hector Neris and Joaquin Benoit make for fine stashes if they’re not already rostered in your league.
A’s manager Bob Melvin said prior to the season that the roles in his bullpen would be “fluid,” but most figured it would be Ryan Madson who got the first chance at the job after saving 30 games last season. However, Oakland had a save opportunity pop up in their opener Monday and it was not Madson who was called upon.
After Ryan Dull, Sean Doolittle and Madson combined to handle the seventh and eighth innings, it was Santiago Casilla who started the ninth. Casilla yielded a one-out walk to Andrelton Simmons but wound up preserving the two-run lead with relative ease.
Casilla struggled down the stretch with the Giants last season and had a poor spring training, so it comes as a surprise that Melvin gave him the first try at closer. However, it’s worth noting that Madson in to face Mike Trout in the eighth with a one-run lead. Casilla faced the bottom of the order with a two-run advantage. While the former Giant might have earned the next save opportunity, this situation could very well continue to be fluid as Melvin said it would be.
With Huston Street beginning the season on the disabled list with a strained right lat, the natural assumption has been that Cam Bedrosian would serve as the Angels’ closer. After all, Bedrosian put up a dominant 1.12 ERA and 51/14 K/BB ratio over 40 1/3 innings in 2016 and was unscored upon across nine frames this spring while boasting an 11/2 K/BB ratio.
However, some cold water was thrown on the Bedrosian closer talk Monday, with the reliever saying he was told by manager Mike Scioscia that the skipper would use a closer by committee approach. The 25-year-old reliever will surely receive the first crack at the job, but the fact that Scioscia has resisted handing Bedrosian the job might suggest that he’ll give the gig back to Street once he’s healthy.
Street is close to resuming a throwing program but is a ways off from a return. If you’re really digging deep, Andrew Bailey is probably worth a speculative pick-up in the even he’s given a stray save opportunity or two.
American League Quick Hits: Rougned Odor smacked a solo homer and a three-run shot in Monday’s loss to the Indians … Khris Davis went 3-for-4 with a pair of solo home runs in Monday’s victory over the Angels … Mike Trout doubled and ripped a solo homer against the A’s on Monday … Dallas Keuchel surrendered just two hits across seven shutout innings in Monday’s win over the Mariners … Mark Trumbo had an RBI double and a walk-off, solo home run versus the Blue Jays on Monday … Corey Kluber dealt with a blister issue during Monday’s start versus the Rangers when he gave up three homers and five runs over six innings. At this point, it doesn’t look to be something that would keep him from taking his next turn … Carlos Rodon (biceps) could resume throwing off a mound on April 10 but might be 5-6 weeks away from a return … Roberto Osuna’s (neck) stay on the disabled list is expected to be a minimum one … Felix Hernandez left Monday’s start against the Astros with groin tightness, but he’s expecting to be fine for his next outing … Ervin Santana spun seven frames of one-run ball in a win over the Royals on Monday … Edwin Encarnacion went 2-for-5 with a game-tying homer in the eighth inning of Monday’s victory over the Rangers … Sonny Gray (lat) will throw a bullpen session Tuesday … Drew Pomeranz (arm) threw six innings and nearly 90 pitches in a minor league game on Monday and appears tentatively in line to start Sunday in Detroit …
National League Quick Hits: Noah Syndergaard’s next start will be pushed back from Saturday to Sunday because of a blister on the top of his middle finger. Syndergaard fired six shutout innings while striking out seven versus the Braves on Monday in spite of the blister … Clayton Kershaw gave up just one run while striking out eight over seven innings against the Padres on Monday … Anthony Rendon (calf) was not in the Nationals’ lineup Monday. He could be in there on Wednesday following Tuesday’s off day … Julio Teheran tossed six scoreless frames but took a no-decision against the Mets on Monday … The Cardinals signed Stephen Piscotty to a six-year, $33.5 million contract extension on Monday. The deal could potentially buy out two years of free agency … Steven Matz revealed Monday that he’s dealing with a flexor strain. The injury had previously been described as merely elbow inflammation … The Dodgers swatted four home runs – including a pair by Yasmani Grandal – in Monday’s rout over the Padres … Freddy Galvis finished 2-for-4 with a homer and two runs scored in Monday’s victory over the Reds … Seth Lugo (elbow) is expected to miss several weeks. He’ll receive a second opinion Tuesday …