Dustin McGowan to make first start since July 8, 2008

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Dustin McGowan’s three-year journey back to the big leagues was completed Tuesday with a four-inning relief appearance and now the Blue Jays have decided to give him a start for the first time since July 8, 2008.

McGowan didn’t exactly dominate in his return outing, allowing eight baserunners and three runs in four innings against the Red Sox, but he’ll get the nod versus the Orioles on Sunday. That last start in mid-2008? Also against Baltimore.

Given his various setbacks and surgeries over the years it seems natural to see if McGowan can stay healthy in the bullpen, where plenty of former starters find new life as dominant late-inning options, but apparently the Blue Jays aren’t ready to write him off as a rotation option yet. John Farrell indicated that McGowan will be on a pitch count of 80 or so and he’s bumping Luis Perez from the rotation.

Jon Gray will start Opening Day for the Rockies

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Manager Bud Black has tabbed Jon Gray to start on Opening Day for the Rockies. That will be Monday, April 3 in Milwaukee against the Brewers in an afternoon contest.

Gray, 25, is starting Opening Day for the first time in his career. He’ll be the sixth different Rockies pitcher to start Opening Day in as many years.

The Rockies and Gray had a bit of a scare on Friday as he left his spring training start with discomfort in his left foot, but everything came up clean in an MRI. He pitched again on Wednesday with no issue.

Last season, Gray went 10-10 with a 4.61 ERA and a 185/59 K/BB ratio in 168 innings. A consensus top prospect entering each of the previous three seasons, Gray surprisingly put up better numbers at Coors Field — the most hitter-friendly park in baseball — than away.

Blake Treinen named Nationals closer

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Today Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker named Blake Treinen as his closer. Treinen has saved exactly one big league game.

There wasn’t necessarily an obvious choice, however. Last year Washington had Mark Melancon, but with him gone and GM Mike Rizzo’s failure to land a high-profile closer in the offseason, it became a contest between Treinen Shawn Kelley and Koda Glover.

Treinen posted a 2.28 ERA with 31 walks and 63 Ks in 67 innings in 2016. His big improvement last year came against lefties, who had tattooed him in the past. He pitched well this spring as well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

The Nats are our favorites to win the NL East, but we do have some questions about the pen. Blake Treinen will take the first crack at answering them.