Orioles remain in contact with left-hander Joe Saunders, unlikely to pursue righty Kyle Lohse

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MASN’s Roch Kubatko provides the scoop:

Executive vice president Dan Duquette remains in contact with left-hander Joe Saunders’ agent. Some members of the national media keep trying to link the Orioles to Kyle Lohse, but they don’t give out big contracts to free-agent pitchers and they’d rather hold onto their first-round pick.

Lohse registered a stellar 2.86 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 211 innings (33 starts) last season with the Cardinals, but the 34-year-old hasn’t been able to attract much interest this winter because of the draft pick compensation and because there is a perception that he will struggle away from St. Louis — where he revitalized his career under former pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Saunders, 31, posted a 4.07 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 174 2/3 innings (28 starts) between the Diamondbacks and Orioles in 2012. He has been linked so far this offseason to the O’s, Mets, Mariners and Padres.

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.