Nationals sign Alex Cora to a minor league contract

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Last week the Nationals were said to be targeting Jerry Hairston Jr. as their utility man replacement for Willie Harris, who signed a minor-league deal with the Mets.

However, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com they turned their attention to Alex Cora because “some in the organization believe [Hairston’s] asking price would be too steep” and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that Cora has agreed to a minor-league contract that would be worth $900,000 plus $600,000 in potential incentives if he makes the team.

Of course, the reason Cora’s asking price isn’t as steep is that he isn’t as good. Or good, period.

Cora hit .210 with a .266 on-base percentage and .278 slugging percentage in 194 plate appearances for the Mets and Rangers last season, and also batted just .251/.320/.310 in 308 trips to the plate for the Mets in 2009. And at age 35 he’s no longer a reliable option defensively at shortstop, making him a bottom-of-the-barrel utility man target.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.