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The Rockies’ fifth starter spot is still up for grabs

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A report from Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post suggests that the Rockies have a few position battles ahead of them in spring training. That includes the back end of the starting rotation, where right-hander Jeff Hoffman is expected to compete with fellow righty German Marquez for the fifth starting role.

Hoffman, 24, finished his first cup of coffee in the majors during the 2016 season. He went 0-4 in six starts with Colorado, pitching to a 4.88 ERA, 4.9 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 31 1/3 innings. Despite a less-than-stellar transition to the big leagues, he retains an impressive pitch arsenal and hasn’t experienced any setbacks since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014. In a best-case scenario, Saunders writes, Hoffman could round out the “best starting rotation in team history” come Opening Day.

Marquez, 21, is also coming off of a rocky debut in 2016. The right-hander labored through 20 2/3 innings out of the Rockies’ bullpen and rotation, posting a 5.23 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 6.5 SO/9 in six appearances. It was the latest in a series of rapid-fire promotions for Marquez, who spent the majority of his season in Double-A Hartford and made a brief stopover in Triple-A Albuquerque before getting a call-up in September. His ceiling isn’t expected to be quite as high as Hoffman’s, though he’ll have plenty of opportunities to compete for the No. 5 spot in the weeks to come.

Oakland Athletics reverse course, will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.