What we're watching: Hudson returns against Marlins

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– Fresh off a sweep of the Rockies to move into a tie for the wild card lead, the Giants will begin a three-game series in Philadelphia tonight. The opener will feature dueling left-handers in Jonathan Sanchez and Cole Hamels. Sanchez, who pitched poorly enough in the first half to be bounced from the rotation for a time, has gone 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA since his return to starting games. That stretch includes a no-hitter against the Padres and a win over the Phillies. Hamels is winless in his last five starts, though he did shut out the Pirates for eight innings last time out. He’s 7-8 with a 4.52 ERA.
– The assignment facing Minnesota’s Jeff Manship in his first major league start would seem to have just gotten a whole lot easier. Now he’ll face a demoralized White Sox team that just saw Jim Thome and his 897 OPS against right-handers given away last night. Manship, a Notre Dame product with a decent fastball and a plus curve, is getting a shot in the rotation after allowing four runs over seven innings in five relief appearances. It’s left-handed power hitters that figure to provide him with the most problems, and the White Sox no longer have any of them.
Game of the Night
Atlanta vs. Florida – One day later than originally expected, Tim Hudson will make his return from Tommy John surgery tonight against the Marlins. The 34-year-old went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in his four Triple-A starts, though it’s worth noting that International League hitters did bat .320 against him. The Marlins will counter with a rehabbing right-hander of their own in Anibal Sanchez. It will be his third start since returning from his latest round of shoulder woes. He beat the Braves by allowing one run and two hits over six innings in his return from the DL on Aug. 21, but he struggled last week against the Mets, giving up four runs — two earned — and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.