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Justin Verlander to start Opening Day for Astros

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Astros manager A.J. Hinch said veteran Justin Verlander will start on Opening Day, the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros begin the regular season on March 29 on the road against the Rangers. Presumably, Verlander will pitch opposite Cole Hamels in a battle among state rivals.

Verlander ends Dallas Keuchel‘s streak of three consecutive Opening Day starts for the Astros. This will be Verlander’s 10th career Opening Day start. The right-hander opened the season seven consecutive seasons from 2008-14 for the Tigers and twice more in 2016-17.

The Astros acquired Verlander at the end of August last season in preparation for the playoffs. The move paid huge dividends as Verlander posted a 1.06 ERA across five starts with the Astros to end the regular season. In the playoffs, Verlander held the opposition to nine runs across 36 2/3 innings. That included two solid starts against the Dodgers in Games 2 and 6 of the World Series, helping the Astros win their first ever championship.

Verlander, 35, is under contract for two more seasons, earning $28 million both years. He also has a vesting option for 2020 worth $22 million.

Tony Clark: Universal DH ‘gaining momentum’ among players

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Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark met the press late this morning and covered a wide array of topics.

One of them: free agency, which he referred to as being “under attack” based on the slow market for free agents last offseason.

“What the players saw last offseason was that their free-agent rights were under attack on what has been the bedrock of our system,” Clark said. He added that they “have some very difficult decisions to make.” Presumably in the form of grievances and, down the road, a negotiating strategy that seeks to claw back some of the many concessions the union has given owners in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. CBAs, it’s worth noting, that Clark negotiated. We’ve covered that territory in detail in the past.

Of more immediate interest was Clark’s comment that the idea of a universal designated hitter is, among players, “gaining momentum.” Clark says “players are talking about it more than they have in the past.” We’ve talked a lot about that as well.

Given that hating or loving the DH is the closest thing baseball has to a religion, no one’s mind is going to be changed by any of this, but I think, practically speaking, it’s inevitable that the National League will have the DH and I think it happens relatively soon. Perhaps in the next five years. The opposition to it at this point is solely subjective and based on tradition. People like pitchers batting and they like double switches and they like the leagues being different because they, well, like it. If the system were being set up today, however, they’d never have it this way and I think even the DH-haters know that well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t dislike a universal DH, but it does mean that you can’t expect the people who run the game to cater to that preference when it makes little sense for them to do it for their own purposes.

Anyway, enjoy convincing each other in the comments about how the side of that argument you dislike is wrong.