Dale Sveum says Anthony Rizzo’s season is “not as bad as everybody makes it out to be”

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Anthony Rizzo has been one of the most disappointing aspects of the Cubs’ season, as the 23-year-old first baseman has seen his OPS drop 60 points following a very promising first season in Chicago last year.

He’s been particularly bad since June 1, hitting just .214 with 12 homers and a .692 OPS in 100 games. However, if you ignore Rizzo’s ugly batting average his 22 homers, 38 doubles, and 74 walks are strong totals for a 23-year-old in his first full season and Cubs manager Dale Sveum talked to Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com about how he feels Rizzo has gotten too much criticism:

You analyze a year and it’s not as bad as everybody makes it out to be. … It’s his first time ever playing every single day in the big leagues. It’s his first time with the pressure of hitting third every single day. The learning process of that is out of the way.

Sveum is right in that Rizzo’s overall production has been right around average among NL hitters, which is far from disastrous even at an offense-driven position like first base. Of course, Rizzo’s lack of development (and a similar story with Starlin Castro) is part of why there’s speculation that the Cubs might fire Sveum.

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.