Darvish gets 2nd straight opening day nod for Padres

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Yu Darvish will make his second straight opening day start for the San Diego Padres when they open their season on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 7.

New manager Bob Melvin made the decision to go with the right-hander, who was 8-11 last season with a 4.22 ERA. His late-season fade in 2021 mirrored the rest of the Padres, who spent a lot of money during the offseason, started the season with high hopes but ended with a disappointing 79-83 record, far behind the Giants and Dodgers.

The 35-year-old Darvish hopes to return to his 2020 form, when he was 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. He’s had a good start to the spring, striking out 10 batters over seven innings while giving up just one earned run in the Cactus League.

The five-time All-Star also started on opening day for the Rangers in 2017.

RULES FOR ’22

MLB finalized a rules change to bring back automatic runners in extra innings for a third straight season.

Despite an easing of pandemic restrictions, MLB and the players’ association agreed to keep the controversial rule that starts each team with a runner on second base during extra innings for the 2022 regular season.

The agreement regarding on-field rules modifications also includes expanding active rosters from 26 players to 28 from opening day on April 7 through May 1 this year, due to the delayed start of spring training.

Another new rule benefits Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani. With the designated hitter adopted in both leagues, pitchers who start games in the batting order can remain in the game as a DH after leaving the mound. A DH can also enter the game to pitch. That change will apply to multiple seasons.

The “zombie” runner modification was applied to the 2020 and 2021 regular seasons as part of adjustments due to COVID-19.

There were 233 extra-inning games last year, and the longest was the Dodgers’ 16-inning win at the San Diego Padres on Aug. 25.

BREWERS ADD URENA

Former Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers pitcher José Ureña has signed a $1.25 million, one-year contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.

The NL Central champion Brewers announced the signing as a minor league contract and immediately selected him to the major league roster.

Ureña, 30, went 4-8 with a 5.81 ERA for the Tigers last season in 26 appearances, including 18 starts. The right-hander had 67 strikeouts and 42 walks in 100 2/3 innings.

Ureña pitched for the Marlins from 2015-20. His best seasons came in 2017 and 2018. He went 14-7 with a 3.82 ERA in 2017 and was 9-12 with a 3.98 ERA in 2018.

ROYALS, MATHENY AGREE THROUGH ’23

The Kansas City Royals exercised their club option on Mike Matheny for the 2023 season on Thursday, eliminating any uncertainty over whether their manager will remain with the club after the coming season.

Matheny is entering his third season with the Royals, which includes the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season and his first 162-game run as the manager last season. He is 100-122 with Kansas City and 691-596 overall, including seven seasons as the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.

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