Link-O-Rama: Strasburg to debut in AFL

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* Now that they have Stephen Strasburg signed, the Nationals plan to have the No. 1 overall pick make a few instructional league starts before pitching in the Arizona Fall League. According to general manager Mike Rizzo, the goal is to have him throw “35-50 innings total” after not pitching since San Diego State’s season ended in late May. Strasburg will wear No. 37, just like he did in college.
* Alfonso Soriano has been dealing with knee pain since running into the outfield wall at Wrigley Field on April 22, hitting just .231/.288/.395 in 99 games since then while going 11-for-70 (.157) with 18 strikeouts this month. He’s been out of the lineup for the past three games and is set to undergo an MRI exam this afternoon. “I hope it’s nothing serious,” Soriano said. “I want to see the doctor and see. I don’t like surgery.”
* Also in the Cubs’ outfield, Milton Bradley talked yesterday about the “hatred you face on a daily basis” and how “it’s hard to be comfortable when you don’t get a hit and get booed every time.” Luckily for everyone involved, there are still two years and $21 million remaining on his contract.
* Random trivia: A.J. Pierzynski is batting .316 with 13 homers and 38 RBIs, putting him on pace to become just the third player in baseball history to hit above .300 with at least 15 homers and fewer than 50 RBIs in a season. The others? Bill Madlock (.309-15-44) in 1978 and Richie Zisk (.311-16-43) in 1981.
* Thanks to Joe Maddon and the Rays, hair-dye sales in the greater St. Petersburg area have gone through the roof.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.