Orioles have talked to Nelson Cruz

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Like a college student cramming before a big exam, the Orioles are desperately trying to put together a competitive roster before spring training exhibition games begin. We learned earlier that the O’s were showing interest in Ervin Santana even after having signed Ubaldo Jimenez, and that they were “intensifying their interest” in DH Kendrys Morales.

You can add another name to the list. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Orioles have been talking to Nelson Cruz in their search for a hitter. Heyman writes that the Orioles “seem likely” to land either Cruz or Morales. They don’t have to worry about giving up their #17 pick anymore, as they already relinquished it having signed Jimenez. Now, they would have to give up their second round pick, 55th overall, per Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun.

Cruz served a 50-game suspension starting in early August last season for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Cruz also has health concerns, having played in no more than 128 games from 2009-11. Additionally, he is 33 years old, which along with his associated draft pick compensation, made it tough for teams to justify handing him the big contract he was hoping to find earlier in the off-season.

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.