Offense has once again been on display in the early days of the season, but Wednesday was an arms race.
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Four young starters showed what they're made of in their first starts of the season, perhaps offering a glimpse of breakouts in 2017. Of course, baseball being the fickle mistress it is, not all of the young guns were rewarded with victories for their efforts.
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the evening was also the most unexpected. Brandon Finnegan, who owned a 3.98 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 31 starts last year, shut down the Phillies with seemingly little trouble, allowing a lone hit and one walk while striking out nine over seven innings.
It seems like forever ago that Finnegan was the first-round pick of the Royals who zoomed through the minors en route to pitching in the World Series the same year he was drafted. That was 2014, and the next year Finnegan was part of the Reds' return for Johnny Cueto at the trade deadline.
On Wednesday, the 23-year-old southpaw gave up a two-out single to Maikel Franco in the first inning and didn't allow another hit the rest of the way.
“He’ll compete,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I don’t even expect that. I know it. He’s a competitor. He’s completely rested and competing every time he takes the mound, so I never have to worry about that. I like to see him working ahead in the count. That really sets the table for him. He’s got a nice mix of pitches and when he’s ahead it really opens up the full bag of pitches he has and locations and allows him to control the game.”
Finnegan wasn't the only one dealing. Jameson Taillon attempted to spoil Chris Sale's Red Sox debut by twirling seven shutout innings of his own. The 25-year-old struck out six while allowing five hits but didn't get the victory, as the game went into extras before the Sox won on a walk-off homer in the 12th inning.
Dylan Bundy dealt in a win over the Blue Jays, striking out eight over seven innings while allowing just four hits and one run. James Paxton also left with a lead but didn't get the win. Still, he held the Astros to just two hits and one walk over six shutout innings.
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Dyson Shelled, Blows Another Save
Things didn't go so well for Rangers closer Sam Dyson on Wednesday.
After getting hit hard in a loss Monday, Dyson doubled down with an even worse showing in Wednesday's meltdown. Tasked with protecting a two-run lead, the 28-year-old instead recorded just one out while allowing five runs, including a Francisco Lindor grand slam.
Dyson entered the year with a fairly solid hold on the Rangers' closing gig after saving 38 games and posting a 2.43 ERA last season. Even in that, there were factors that made Dyson a non-traditional closer and a risky fantasy bet -- notably that he struck out "just" 55 batters in 70 1/3 innings, and that he owned a subpar 1.22 WHIP despite the nice ERA.
Even with Dyson's shortcomings -- both in the general sense, and through two appearances in particular -- Rangers manager Jeff Banister said Wednesday night that he's not ready to make any changes this early.
"This is a guy that's been really good for us," Banister said after the game. "I'm not going to jump off after two games."
Even so, there's reason to start hedging for fantasy owners, especially ones who left their drafts lacking in the saves department. Matt Bush, who also yielded a run in Wednesday's opener but who fits the mold of the power closer and also put up shiny numbers in 2016, would seem to be the favorite for saves in the event Dyson is replaced. He'll be one of the more coveted adds in the next few days.
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Quick Hits: Garrett Richards was lifted from Wednesday's start against the A's, but it turned out to be just a right biceps cramp. Crisis averted ... Stephen Piscotty has passed all his concussion tests and said he would have been available to play Wednesday against the Cubs. There's a good chance we'll see him back in the starting nine Thursday for the series finale ... Drew Pomeranz (arm) is in line to start against the Tigers on Sunday. Pomeranz turned in a minor league tune-up start on Monday as he readies to make his return from a left flexor strain sustained in spring training. While he looks like a full-go to start on Sunday, that could change if Thursday's game against the Pirates is rained out and the Red Sox have to shift their weekend rotation. Stay tuned ... Roberto Osuna (neck) threw 35-40 pitches off of flat ground on Wednesday. Osuna was fighting through tightness in his neck over the final few weeks of spring training and was placed on the 10-day disabled list on Sunday. He threw all of his pitches on Wednesday without issue and, according to pitching coach Pete Walker, could be in line for a potential bullpen session as early as Friday. A minor league game could follow. The hope here is that Osuna will be ready for the home opener against the Brewers next Tuesday ... Denard Span (hip) is not in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Diamondbacks. Span was likewise kept out of action due to left hip soreness on Tuesday. The team hoped that he would be recovered enough to play on Wednesday, but no dice, no dice. Gorkys Hernandez led off and manned center field in his place against the Diamondbacks. Span should be considered day-to-day moving forward ... Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have agreed to a minor league contract with Edwin Jackson pending a physical. Per Encina, Jackson's deal will include a June 1 opt-out clause. Assuming he passes his physical, he will report to extended spring training on Thursday. The veteran right-hander split his 2016 season between the Marlins and Padres. He struggled on the whole, posting a 5.89 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 61/41 K/BB ratio in 84 innings. With the Orioles, he will serve as organizational depth ... Rockies released RHP Jason Motte. Motte was designated for assignment on Friday. The former Cardinals closer boasts an impressive resume but has seen his effectiveness wane since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 35-year-old shouldn't be out of work for long, though he may have to settle for a minor league deal ... Brewers claimed INF/OF Nick Franklin off waivers from the Rays. Franklin was surprisingly DFA'd at the conclusion of spring training. The 26-year-old has had an underwhelming career to this point but has value as a jack-of-all-trades who can play all over the diamond.