Cano, Puig, Pujols to participate in an All-Star series in Japan in November

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For several years the MLB and the MLBPA has promoted an All-Star Series in which MLB players tour Japan in November. It has taken on various forms and is a modern day version of old barnstorming series in Japan that have gone on for over a century. Today they announced this year’s version, along with some of the big names taking part:

Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association jointly announced today that MLB All-Stars Robinson Cano of the Seattle Mariners, Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles, Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will be among the group of accomplished Major Leaguers who will travel to Japan this November to play a five-game series against “Samurai Japan” (Japan’s National Team) in “All-Star Series 2014.”  The MLB All-Stars will be led by Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, who led the Rangers to back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011.

There will be three official games, played in Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Tokyo’s Tokyo Dome and Sapporo’s Sapporo Dome.  There will also be two exhibition games, with one in Osaka’s Koshien Stadium and the other in Okinawa’s Okinawa Cellular Stadium.

So, as of November, Yasiel Puig will have disrespected the game in two different hemispheres. Cool.

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.