Cubs manager Mike Quade announced this afternoon that Ryan Dempster will be the Opening Day starter, telling Carrie Muskat of MLB.com that he slept on the decision last night and let his “instinct” make the call.
Ultimately which pitcher takes the mound on Opening Day is mostly meaningless, as everyone in the rotation will be in line to start 32-34 games as long as they remain healthy all season, but Quade turning to Dempster is interesting given that Carlos Zambrano has drawn six straight Opening Day assignments for the Cubs.
Zambrano was demoted to the bullpen for a stretch last season and logged just 130 innings for the lowest workload since he was a 21-year-old rookie in 2002, but he was brilliant after rejoining the rotation in mid-August with an 8-0 record and 1.41 ERA in his final 11 starts. He finished with a 3.33 ERA overall, while Dempster had a 3.85 ERA in 215 innings.
Instead of starting Game 1 for the seventh consecutive season Zambrano will follow Dempster, with Matt Garza taking the mound in Game 3 after coming to the Cubs in an offseason trade with the Rays.
Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.
Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.
Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.
The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.
Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.
Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.