Bryce Harper pulled a Ricky Nolasco breaking ball into the seats for a solo homer on his first swing of the season and then took Nolasco deep again in the fourth inning. Two at-bats, two solo bombs on hanging breaking balls for the 20-year-old reigning Rookie of the Year who hit .478 this spring.
Calcaterra says to remind everyone that he picked Harper to win NL MVP in today’s “HBT Extra” video, so … whatever.
Also worth mentioning: Now that Harper is growing out his beard the Nationals’ outfield is tough to beat for overall beard-ness, with Jayson Werth always dominating and Denard Span always solid. Could be an overlooked key this season.
UPDATE: In his third at-bat Harper squared around to bunt on 0-1, took a bunch of pitches to make it 3-1, and then flied out to medium left-center. What a bum.
UPDATE #2: Harper is the youngest player ever to homer multiple times on Opening Day. He’s more than a year younger than the previous record-holder, Don Money.
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.