The Phillies are taking a "hard look" at John Smoltz

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So says Jayson Stark. The idea being for Smoltz to be a “back-of-bullpen weapon.”  Given Brad Lidge’s performance last year he could be a Nerf gun and still represent an improvement.

Smoltz has long been on record as preferring starting to coming out of the pen.  Earlier in the week the Nationals reportedly had interest in him.  One would assume that they’d offer him a spot in the rotation — and a mentoring role to Stephen Strasburg — if he were so inclined. But the Nationals are going to lose a lot of games. If he goes to Philadelphia, he can win.

Starting or winning? We’ll soon find out what’s more important to John Smoltz.

Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for Red Sox

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No surprise here: Chris Sale will start on Opening Day for the Red Sox, Pete Abraham of The Boston Globe reports. The Red Sox open the season on March 29 in Tampa Bay against the Rays. Sale will oppose Chris Archer.

Sale, 28, is the fifth different Opening Day starter the Red Sox have had in as many years, preceded by Rick Porcello, David Price, Clay Buchholz, and Jon Lester. Sale started on Opening Day for the White Sox in 2013, ’14, and ’16.

Sale finished second in AL Cy Young Award balloting last year and finished ninth for AL MVP. He went 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and a 308/43 K/BB ratio in 214 1/3 innings. Sale and Clayton Kershaw (2015) are the only pitchers to strike out 300 or more batters in a season dating back to 2003.