AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Marcus Stroman uses grounders, not strikeouts, to tame Rays’ bats on Opening Day

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Rays starter Chris Archer drew most of the attention during Sunday’s Opening Day contest, helping set a new franchise record for strikeouts, but it was Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman who had the last laugh.

Stroman pitched into the ninth inning, yielding three runs on six hits and a walk with five strikeouts. The right-hander allowed 21 total balls in play, 17 of which were of the ground ball variety, or 81 percent. To put that in perspective, Brett Anderson led qualified starters in ground ball rate last season at 66.3 percent. Obviously, one game is a tremendously small sample size.

The ground balls are nothing new for Stroman. In 157 2/3 career innings in the majors entering the 2016 season, he had induced grounders at a 55.6 percent clip along with a 20 percent strikeout rate. As Stroman lost most of last season due to a torn ACL, the soon-to-be 25-year-old is a popular breakout pick for this season.

During Sunday’s outing, Stroman had held the Rays to a lone run in the first eight innings. He went for the complete game, but allowed a leadoff home run to Corey Dickerson and a single to Desmond Jennings before being replaced by Roberto Osuna. Osuna allowed Jennings to score, with the run being charged to Stroman. He was eventually able to close things out for the 5-3 win.

Nationals sign George Kontos to minors deal

George Kontos
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The Nationals selected the contract of reliever George Kontos from the Atlantic League Long Island Ducks, per an official announcement on Saturday. The right-hander has been assigned to Triple-A Fresno, but could still make his season debut sometime before the first half of the season draws to a close.

Kontos, 33, hasn’t pitched in the majors since he took a handful of back-to-back-to-back gigs with the Pirates, Indians, and Yankees in 2018. He inked a minor league pact with the Cubs over the offseason, but failed to break camp with the team and was subsequently released in mid-April. He turned in seven strong innings for the Ducks since then, allowing one run and one walk and striking out six of 27 batters in six appearances.

Last year, the veteran reliever posted a combined 4.39 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, and 5.1 SO/9 over 26 2/3 innings. While he hasn’t pitched anywhere close to his career-best numbers in four years, he may still provide some valuable depth for the club, whose bullpen ranks 10th best in the league with a cumulative 4.59 ERA and 5.9 fWAR so far in 2019.