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The Rockies’ fifth starter spot is still up for grabs

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A report from Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post suggests that the Rockies have a few position battles ahead of them in spring training. That includes the back end of the starting rotation, where right-hander Jeff Hoffman is expected to compete with fellow righty German Marquez for the fifth starting role.

Hoffman, 24, finished his first cup of coffee in the majors during the 2016 season. He went 0-4 in six starts with Colorado, pitching to a 4.88 ERA, 4.9 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 31 1/3 innings. Despite a less-than-stellar transition to the big leagues, he retains an impressive pitch arsenal and hasn’t experienced any setbacks since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014. In a best-case scenario, Saunders writes, Hoffman could round out the “best starting rotation in team history” come Opening Day.

Marquez, 21, is also coming off of a rocky debut in 2016. The right-hander labored through 20 2/3 innings out of the Rockies’ bullpen and rotation, posting a 5.23 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 in six appearances. It was the latest in a series of rapid-fire promotions for Marquez, who spent the majority of his season in Double-A Hartford and made a brief stopover in Triple-A Albuquerque before getting a call-up in September. His ceiling isn’t expected to be quite as high as Hoffman’s, though he’ll have plenty of opportunities to compete for the No. 5 spot in the weeks to come.

Anthony Alford to miss 4-6 weeks following wrist surgery

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Blue Jays’ outfielder Anthony Alford will miss at least 4-6 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left wrist, the team announced on Saturday. Alford was placed on the 10-day disabled list earlier in the week after sustaining a left hamate fracture on a foul pitch, and could miss significant time in what looks to be a lengthy rehab process. MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm reports that the procedure has been scheduled for next week and will be performed by Dr. Donald Sheridan in Arizona.

Alford, 22, was called up to the majors from Double-A New Hampshire last Friday. He went hitless in his first three outings, finally catching a break against the Brewers on Tuesday when he pinch-hit a leadoff double in the seventh. The injury occurred two innings later when Alford fouled off a pitch in the ninth inning, fracturing his wrist in the process.

Alford will join eight other players on the Blue Jays’ disabled list, including outfielders Steve Pearce (calf strain), Dalton Pompey (concussion) and Darrell Cecillani (partial shoulder dislocation). He’s expected to be replaced by 24-year-old outfield prospect Dwight Smith Jr.

Stephen Strasburg hit a new career high today

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Good luck getting a hit against the Nationals this weekend. Stephen Strasburg followed Max Scherzer‘s 13-strikeout performance on Friday with a dazzling outing of his own on Saturday afternoon. The right-hander whiffed a career-best 15 batters in seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk in the Nats’ 3-0 win.

It took Strasburg several innings to get into a groove after pitching into (and out of) a jam in the first inning. The Padres loaded the bases with Allen Cordoba‘s leadoff single, a throwing error by Ryan Zimmerman and a four-pitch walk to Cory Spangenberg. By the third, Strasburg was cruising, striking out the side on 18 pitches and keeping the Padres off the basepaths until the sixth. He recorded his 15th and final strikeout in the seventh inning, catching Padres’ prospect Franchy Cordero swinging on a 1-2 pitch to effectively end his outing.

While 15 strikeouts set a new career record for the Nationals’ ace, he came close to reaching the mark twice before. The first time, he struck out 14 of 24 batters during his major league debut against the 2010 Pirates, though the 5-2 win did little more than keep the Nationals neck-and-neck with the Marlins at the bottom of the NL East. Five years later, he tied his 14-strikeout record against the 2015 Phillies, tossing a one-hitter in eight innings to cement his ninth victory of the season.

The only one who doesn’t seem overly enthused by the new record? Strasburg himself, who told MLB.com’s Jamal Collier and AJ Cassavell: “It’s pretty cool, but there’s another game five, six days from now. I’ll enjoy it tonight, but back to work tomorrow.”