The Yankees and Rangers, No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in runs per game so far this season, will meet for the first time this season tonight. So, of course, they’ve both brought out the big guns, right?
Well, certainly, the top six for each lineup is incredibly strong. The designated hitters won’t be found there, though. They’re both batting eighth tonight. And for good reason.
The Yankees have their backup shortstop, Eduardo Nunez, DHing for the first time in his career. The usual strategy has been to play him at shortstop or third in order to give Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez a half-day off as a DH. However, after Sunday’s rainout, neither veteran needs that half-day off right now. Nunez has six homers and 40 RBI in 381 career major league at-bats.
The Rangers’ designated hitter is Brandon Snyder, a former first-round pick of the Orioles who was cast off by the team over the winter. But while he couldn’t help Baltimore, the two-time defending AL champs have given him an early look against lefties, starting him twice at first base. He’s gone 3-for-9 so far. Overall, he has no homers and four RBI in 42 major league at-bats.
It’s safe to say neither player will be reminding anyone of Jose Canseco, Chili Davis, Don Baylor, Sammy Sosa or any of the other muscle-bound sluggers of DH days past.
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.
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.