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Report: Orioles interested in Collin McHugh

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The Orioles have reportedly reached out to the Astros about right-hander Collin McHugh, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com. While a trade doesn’t appear to be imminent, McHugh could help bolster the Orioles’ woefully thin rotation, an opportunity he’s unlikely to get in Houston as the Astros already have Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton pegged for starting roles.

The 30-year-old right-hander is looking to rebound after missing the first half of the 2017 season with an elbow injury. He performed well after working his way back from the disabled list, and finished the season with a 5-2 record in 12 starts and a 3.55 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 in 63 1/3 innings. While McHugh appears more than capable of shouldering a full workload again in 2018, the Astros’ offseason acquisitions have effectively removed him from the rotation, and it seems far more likely that he’ll end up in a long relief role this year — provided they don’t trade him first, that is.

In the meantime, McHugh is still waiting on an arbitration ruling this offseason after filing for $5 million back in January, which was met with a counteroffer of $4.55 million from the Astros. He’s set to remain under team control through 2020.

An earlier report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic suggests that the Twins may also be in on McHugh, though they don’t appear to have made a serious offer yet. Rosenthal points out that teams might be reluctant to pursue trade candidates like McHugh and Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi until more free agents (Jake Arrieta and Andrew Cashner among them) have been taken off the board.

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.