Cubs prospects get advice from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood

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This week the Cubs had a bunch of their top prospects in Chicago for an “acclamation program” and two speakers brought in to speak to them were Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.

Both were amazing prospects and neither had the career many people expected, although Wood and to a lesser extent Prior certainly weren’t total busts.

“Who better to know and understand having all the hype, having all the pressure, being the young guy coming up and then performing in his environment?” senior vice-president of scouting/player development Jason McLeod told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. “Who better than those two guys? Those had to have been two of the most hyped Cubs prospects of the last 15-20 years.”

Wood retired in May of last season following a 14-year career in the majors that included a Rookie of the Year award and two All-Star appearances. Prior made the All-Star team and finished third in the Cy Young award voting during his first full season at age 22, but hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2006 and made various comeback attempts while pitching in the minors since then.

Meanwhile, the Cubs didn’t invite Sammy Sosa to their annual Cubs Convention.

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.