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.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.