“This is Birdland” – the Orioles’ 2012 slogan.
Jake Arrieta had a 5.05 ERA in 22 starts before requiring elbow surgery and missing the final two months of last season. This spring, he has a 6.14 ERA in his four starts. Incredibly, it was a good enough showing to earn him the Opening Day assignment against the Twins this year.
The Orioles didn’t announce their full rotation Monday, but they did state that Arrieta would start the opener and former Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel would go in the third game of the season. The other three rotation spots are expected to be filled by Wei-Yin Chen, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter.
Obviously, no one from the crew really jumps out as being worthy of an Opening Day start. No one in the group has thrown as many as 180 innings in a major league season. Hunter has the best ERA of the four with major league experience, having gone 26-16 with a 4.50 ERA in a career mostly spent with the Rangers. Matusz has probably had the most impressive spring of the bunch, but he went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA last season.
So, get ready for Arrieta versus Carl Pavano on Opening Day. It’ll count in the standings, if nothing else.
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.