Pirates choose Erik Bedard as Opening Day starter

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Considering his lengthy injury history making this official with two weeks left in spring training seems sort of risky, but the Pirates announced that Erik Bedard will start Opening Day.

Manager Clint Hurdle told reporters that he’d planned to give the Opening Day assignment to A.J. Burnett after the Pirates acquired him from the Yankees, but then Burnett went and fractured his orbital bone while practicing bunts. That and his ERAs the past two seasons were 5.26 and 5.15.

Bedard was very effective when healthy last year for the Mariners and Red Sox, making 24 starts with a 3.62 ERA and 125/48 K/BB ratio in 129 innings. In fact, his ERA has been under 3.80 in each of the past five years, which is why he was worth a $4.5 million investment and gets the Game 1 call ahead of James McDonald and Kevin Correia.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.