The Phillies were the “mystery team” for A.J. Burnett

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The Yankees and Pirates have agreed to a deal that will send A.J. Burnett and cash considerations to the Pirates for Double-A reliever Diego Moreno and Low-A outfielder Exicardo Cayones, but it turns out there was another team in the mix. A”mystery team,” if you will. And this one might surprise you.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Phillies were involved in talks for Burnett before a deal was finally reached with Pittsburgh. This probably never had a realistic chance of happening, as the Phillies would have had to find a home for Joe Blanton (likely paying part of his $8.5 million salary) in order to make a deal work. No takers, apparently.

I’d rather have Burnett than Blanton at this point, but adding another $8 million to the payroll for 2013 (like the Pirates will do) when the Phillies already have approximately $108 million committed might not have been the best idea for a team who is hoping to work out an extension with Cole Hamels. They need all the flexibility they can get.

The big takeaway here is that the Phillies are looking to trade Blanton and currently seek an upgrade for their rotation. Blanton was limited to just 41 1/3 innings last season due to an elbow injury, so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to unload him unless he can prove healthy and effective during spring training. Of course, Roy Oswalt will probably sign somewhere by then, so it’s unclear where an upgrade would come from. But Ruben Amaro, Jr. has a habit of surprising us.

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.