Reds choose Edinson Volquez as Opening Day starter over Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto

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Aaron Harang has been Cincinnati’s starter on Opening Day in each of the past five seasons, but he’s in San Diego now and manager Dusty Baker announced that Edinson Volquez will get the Game 1 assignment this year.

Volquez is sort of an odd pick, because he missed most of last season while coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery and was hardly the Reds’ best starter when healthy, going 4-3 with a 4.31 ERA in 12 starts. Bronson Arroyo is the veteran of the rotation and went 17-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 33 starts, and Johnny Cueto was the best of the young guys with a 12-7 record and 3.64 ERA in 31 starts.

Arroyo will follow Volquez and Cueto will get the nod in Game 3, with Baker explaining the ordering by saying:

You want to go hard, soft, hard. You want to break up Cueto and Volquez so they don’t go out and out radar gun each other.

First of all, “you want to go hard, soft, hard” is the leader in the clubhouse for best out-of-context quote of spring training. Secondly, that doesn’t explain why Volquez is ahead of Cueto, although Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes:

As for the hoopla that surrounds the opener, Baker felt Volquez was equipped to handle it since nothing really bothers him. More importantly, he felt Volquez could handle facing the other club’s No. 1 starters regularly.

Which would be fine, except starting on Opening Day doesn’t mean Volquez will be facing other No. 1 starters throughout the season. Because of off days, injuries, and other factors those matchups become more or less random within a couple weeks.

Report: Astros, Alex Bregman agree to five-year, $100 million extension

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Fox 26’s Mark Berman reports that the Astros and third baseman Alex Bregman have agreed to $100 million contract extension. MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart confirms a deal has been reached and adds that the deal is actually for five years, beginning after the 2019 season. The contract will cover all three of Bregman’s arbitration years and two years of would-be free agency.

Bregman, who turns 25 years old later this month, has quickly become one of the best third basemen in baseball. Across parts of three seasons, he has hit .282/.366/.500 with 58 home runs, 208 RBI, 224 runs scored, and 29 stolen bases. FanGraphs credited him with 7.6 Wins Above Replacement, tied with Francisco Lindor and Christian Yelich for the fourth-best mark among position players in baseball, trailing only Mookie Betts (10.4), Mike Trout (9.8), and José Ramírez (8.0).

This is obviously a smart move for the Astros, as this contract extension will secure Bregman’s age 25-30 seasons. With second baseman José Altuve also locked up through 2024, and presumed extensions to come for Carlos Correa and possibly Gerrit Cole and George Springer, the Astros have a core that they can build around for years to come.