Kevin Youkilis misses fifth straight game with back injury

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Kevin Youkilis missed his fifth straight game yesterday with a back injury that was initially only expected to cost him a day or two.

Bryan Hoch of MLB.com reports that Youkilis tried to take batting practice before last night’s game, but his lower back was too stiff. Yankees manager Joe Girardi told Hoch that Youkilis could be placed on the disabled list if he’s not ready to play Saturday, but added that “we believe that he’s going to be back within 15 days.”

Youkilis was off to a good start before the back problems flared up, hitting .279 with a .796 OPS in 16 games, but he had an uncharacteristically bad 17/3 K/BB ratio. Youkilis has missed at least 40 games in each the past three seasons and hasn’t played more than 140 games since 2008.

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.