Astros sign Jesse Crain

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Hey, actual news on December 31!

Jesse Crain has agreed to a one-year contract with the Astros, who add the veteran right-hander to a bullpen mix that also recently added Chad Qualls on a two-year, $6 million deal.

Crain was having a career-year for the White Sox when shoulder problems derailed him in late June. At the time he had a 0.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 37 innings and he was actually traded to the Rays while on the disabled list, but Crain never threw another pitch in 2013.

Obviously he’s a big question mark, but it’s a good fit for both sides. If healthy Crain will be the Astros’ best late-inning option and getting a chance in the closer role could lead to a nice payday when he hits the open market again next offseason at age 32.

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.