Earlier this week, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson named left-hander Patrick Corbin and right-hander Trevor Cahill as his starters for the upcoming two-game season opening series in Australia from March 22-23. The Dodgers have yet to make an official announcement on their starters for the series, but Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes that things are starting to line up:
The Dodgers have set up Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu to start the two season-opening games in Australia by inserting prospect Zach Lee to start Friday against Texas.
It will be Lee’s first start of the Spring after being slowed by a strained lat muscle.
Manager Don Mattingly won’t confirm any of his plans, but he has told the pitchers their roles.
Mattingly has been coy about the situation until now, leading to some speculation that the Dodgers would hold out on using Kershaw until they return home, but this is the most logical pairing with Zack Greinke working his way back from a calf injury and Josh Beckett slowly building his workload after thoracic outlet surgery. The Dodgers will likely bring Dan Haren on the trip as insurance for Kershaw and Ryu, but assuming he isn’t needed during the series, he would have a pretty long layoff between his final spring training outing and his season debut.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.