James Shields has started Game 1 for the Rays for the past two seasons and manager Joe Maddon just announced that he’ll get the Opening Day nod again this year:
We feel very good about him being the opening day starter. We feel as though he’s earned the right to maintain that position. He was very excited and very grateful about it.
Scott Kazmir got the Game 2 call last season, but he’s with the Angels now and instead Matt Garza will follow Shields in the rotation. Maddon added that David Price and Jeff Niemann will start Games 3 and 4, but he hasn’t decided on the order yet. Niemann actually led the Rays in wins as a rookie with 13, posting a 3.94 ERA in 180.2 innings.
Wade Davis and Andy Sonnanstine are fighting for the final rotation spot, with Sonnanstine having the big edge in experience and Davis possessing significantly more upside.
The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.
Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.
Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.
Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.
Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.