Roberto Hernandez is first free agent pitcher to start for Rays since 2005

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When Roberto Hernandez takes the mound for the Rays this afternoon against the Orioles he’ll snap an incredible steak by becoming the first free agent pitcher to start for Tampa Bay since 2005.

According to the Rays’ official Twitter feed that’s a stretch of 1,207 consecutive games in which they did not use a starting pitcher who was acquired via major-league free agent contract. There were some minor-league signings used during that span, but the last pitcher signed to a big-league deal who started for the Rays was Hideo Nomo on July 25, 2005.

Hernandez signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract with the Rays in December after barely pitching last season due to false identity charges (he used to be known as Fausto Carmona) and then an ankle injury.

By the way, check out the boxscore from that July 25, 2005 game. It’s fun.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.