Mark Bowman of MLB.com passes along word that Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has officially tabbed Tommy Hanson to start Opening Day against the Mets next Thursday. It will be the first Opening Day assignment of his career.
Hanson was limited to just 22 starts last year due to right shoulder problems and missed the first couple weeks of camp after suffering a mild concussion in a one-car accident. Armed with a revamped delivery, the 24-year-old right-hander has a 2.57 ERA and 6/1 K/BB ratio over his first two official Grapefruit League starts. He’s making his final tuneup this afternoon against the Tigers.
Hanson will be followed in the rotation by Jair Jurrjens, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. Randall Delgado and Julio Teheran are currently competing for the fifth spot in the rotation while the newly-signed Livan Hernandez is expected to pitch in long relief.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.
Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.
Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.
Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.
Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.
How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.
As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.