Tim Wakefield spoke for many of us the other day when he said he was “very curious” about the team’s plans for their starting rotation. Well, manager Terry Francona finally revealed on Friday that Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Wakefield will all start the season in the rotation, according to Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe.
With three days off in the first 10 days of the season, the team could have easily gone without a fifth starter until April 18. But now Francona has the luxury of tinkering with his starters in the early part of the schedule, such as using Beckett twice before Buchholz makes his first start of the season.
“We thought about a lot of things,” Francona said. “We’re trying to
balance present, future, performance, winning, and I think we’re all
comfortable with where we got to. There are some things that could
change, with weather and things like that. How must rest is too much?
How much is not enough? I think we’re pretty comfortable with where we
The first three spots of the rotation were locks, obviously, but most of the discussion this spring has been about the 43-year-old Wakefield, who has been very effective after offseason back surgery and Clay Buchholz, who has a 10.80 ERA in 6 2/3 innings of exhibition action.
They’ll be evaluated very carefully over the first few weeks of the season, as Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has been bothered by neck and back issues this spring, could be ready to return by the end of April.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.
The Nationals announced on Saturday afternoon that the club acquired closer Mark Melancon from the Pirates in exchange for reliever Felipe Rivero and minor league pitcher Taylor Hearn.
Melancon, 31, put together another solid season for the Pirates, leaving the club with 30 saves, a 1.51 ERA, and a 38/9 K/BB ratio in 41 2/3 innings. He led the majors last season with 51 saves and has a 1.80 ERA since joining the Pirates in 2013. Melancon is earning $9.65 million this season and can become eligible for free agency after the season.
With Melancon out of the picture, the Pirates intend to have Tony Watson take over the closer’s role.
Rivero, 25, has handled the seventh and eighth innings for the Nationals this season, compiling a 4.53 ERA and a 53/15 K/BB ratio in 49 2/3 innings. He’s just shy of one year of service time, so the Pirates will have control of him for a long time.
Hearn, 21, was rated the Nationals’ 27th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was originally drafted by the Pirates in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft but he didn’t sign and ended up going back to college. The Nationals took him in the fifth round of last year’s draft. This season, between rookie ball and Single-A Hagerstown, Hearn put up a 2.79 ERA and a 39/13 K/BB ratio in 29 innings. He’s a long way away from the majors, so he’s essentially a lottery ticket for the Pirates.
The Nationals needed an upgrade at closer as Jonathan Papelbon has struggled this season. The right-hander has allowed runs in each of his last three appearances, ballooning his ERA up to 4.41 with a 30/13 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. It will be interesting to see how Papelbon, who has never made a habit of letting his feelings go unspoken, handles a demotion to the eighth inning.