Aaron Harang has been Cincinnati’s starter on Opening Day in each of the past five seasons, but he’s in San Diego now and manager Dusty Baker announced that Edinson Volquez will get the Game 1 assignment this year.
Volquez is sort of an odd pick, because he missed most of last season while coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery and was hardly the Reds’ best starter when healthy, going 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 12 starts. Bronson Arroyo is the veteran of the rotation and went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 33 starts, and Johnny Cueto was the best of the young guys with a 12-7 record and 3.64 ERA in 31 starts.
Arroyo will follow Volquez and Cueto will get the nod in Game 3, with Baker explaining the ordering by saying:
You want to go hard, soft, hard. You want to break up Cueto and Volquez so they don’t go out and out radar gun each other.
First of all, “you want to go hard, soft, hard” is the leader in the clubhouse for best out-of-context quote of spring training. Secondly, that doesn’t explain why Volquez is ahead of Cueto, although Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes:
As for the hoopla that surrounds the opener, Baker felt Volquez was equipped to handle it since nothing really bothers him. More importantly, he felt Volquez could handle facing the other club’s No. 1 starters regularly.
Which would be fine, except starting on Opening Day doesn’t mean Volquez will be facing other No. 1 starters throughout the season. Because of off days, injuries, and other factors those matchups become more or less random within a couple weeks.
David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.
Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:
[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.
The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.
Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:
I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.
The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.
The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.