A first in 15 years: 2014 will open without a member of the 500-HR club

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With Alex Rodriguez spending the season on the restricted list, this season will be the first since 1999 to begin without a member of the 500-homer club on a major league roster.

The last time MLB was played without a 500-HR guy was 15 years ago. Eddie Murray retired after the 1997 season, leaving a void until Mark McGwire joined the 500-homer club in Aug. 1999.

Of course, one could say this is all semantics. After all, there were no 500-homer guys on an active roster last Opening Day either, though A-Rod was just on the disabled list then. And while Rodriguez won’t be on a major league roster this year, he certainly still qualifies as an active player.

Regardless, the 500-homer club won’t be empty for too long: Albert Pujols is just eight bombs away at 492. He is the lone candidate to get there this year, though. Adam Dunn (440), Jason Giambi (438) and Paul Konerko (434) are next on the list, and all are likely entering their final seasons. David Ortiz (431) has a shot if he can remain a full-time DH into 2016. Alfonso Soriano is at 406 as he enters his age-38 season. After Pujols gets there, it’s possible no one will join him until Miguel Cabrera, who is at 365 through age 30.

Prior to 1999, it wasn’t uncommon for the league to be without a 500-homer guy. There were none from the time Mike Schmidt retired in 1989 until Murray joined in Sept. 1996. There were also none from 1981-Sept. 1984, when Reggie Jackson hit his 500th. The current streak of having a 500-homer guy active is the longest in history. Before this, the longest was Sept. 1965, when Willie Mays got there, until 1976, when Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson retired.

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.