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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.

Dodgers, Cubs could be interested in Justin Verlander

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network said yesterday that the Detroit Tigers and Chicago Cubs have been engaged in trade talks involving starting pitcher Justin Verlander and catcher Alex Avila. Morosi also noted that the Los Angeles Dodgers have shown interest in Verlander as well. Whether this is idyl chitchatting of serious dispute is unclear, of course. Everything is unclear in the leadup to the deadline.

The veteran right-hander is carrying a 4.50 with a 120/57 K/BB ratio over 124 innings. Verlander impressed last year, finishing second in AL Cy Young Award balloting, but he has fallen back to Earth in 2017. His velocity remains high, however, and it’s not hard to imagine him going on a solid run in a way that could help a contender. He is owed $56 million over the next two seasons, however, and has a $22 million option that could vest for 2020, so negotiations for him could be tough. If the Tigers want talent back, they’ll have to eat salary.

Verlander got an ovation from a Detroit crowd last night which seemed to sense that, yes, it’s possible he pitched his last game for the Tigers. Given that he has 10/5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade, that decision is ultimately up to him. It’s not hard to imagine him accepting a trade to a contender, however.

We wait see.

A 30-year-old rookie won his major league debut

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The Dodgers beat the Twins last night thanks to a Cody Bellinger three-run homer. But Bellinger was not the only Dodgers rookie who had a notable game. A far more unconventional one is worth mentioning as well.

That rookie is reliever Edward Paredes, who made his big league debut last night. What makes him unconventional: he’s 30. Turns 31 in September, actually. Paredes pitched professionally for 12 years before making it to The Show. Most of that time was in the affiliated minors in the Mariners, Indians, Angels and Dodgers organizations. He spent time in the independent Atlantic League in 2013-15 as well.

Paredes did not do anything heroic last night. It was more of a right place/right time kind of appearance, retiring the side in order with a fly out, line out and a ground out and remaining the pitcher of record while Bellinger hit that three-run homer. That’s enough for a W, though. A W that Paredes waited a lot longer for than most pitchers who notch one in the bigs.