What we're watching: Sanchez versus Vander Meer

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– Jason Schmidt will make his first major league start since June 16,
2007 tonight against the Reds. Shoulder woes have made him a complete
bust since Dodgers GM Ned Colletti handed him $47 million for three
years in Dec. 2006. It’s unlikely that the 36-year-old will start
earning that money now — he had a 5.82 ERA in his last three rehab
starts for Triple-A Albuquerque — but the Dodgers can afford to give
him a couple of starts and see what happens. Making Schmidt’s
assignment more difficult tonight is that the Reds will have their
second-best hitter in the lineup, as Micah Owings pitches for the first
time in 11 days.

– Longtime Braves teammates John Smoltz and Kevin Millwood will face
off in Texas as the Red Sox and Rangers begin a three-game series.
Smoltz is coming off his first win for Boston after striking out seven
Royals on July 11. He’s 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA. Millwood has faltered
lately, going 0-2 with an 8.83 ERA in three starts this month. That’s
taken his season ERA from 2.80 to 3.46. The Rangers are hoping to get
Nelson Cruz back in the lineup after he missed Sunday’s game with a
small fracture in his right ring finger.

– Eight years after the Indians made him a supplemental first-round
pick, J.D. Martin will make his major league debut starting for the
Nationals against the Mets. Martin opened his career with a bang,
posting a 1.38 ERA and a 72/11 K/BB ratio in 46 innings in Rookie ball.
However, elbow problems began to strike in 2003, eventually resulting
in Tommy John surgery, and it didn’t look like he’d ever reach the
majors. His best stuff is long gone now, but the Nationals thought his
8-3 record and 2.66 ERA in Triple-A made him worth a look.

Game of the Night

San Francisco vs. Atlanta – With plenty of time to have thought about
it, Jonathan Sanchez will finally get to follow up his no-hitter
tonight against the Braves. It’s been 10 days since his 11-strikeout
gem against the Padres, and he’s pitched a total of 12 innings in four
weeks. For the year, he’s 0-7 with a 6.62 ERA in road outings. Atlanta
will start Tommy Hanson, who still hasn’t taken a loss as a major
leaguer. He wasn’t sharp 11 days ago against the Rockies, but he’s 4-0
with a 2.85 ERA since being debuting in early June.

Orioles interested in Denard Span

Denard Span
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.

Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.

The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.

Blue Jays showing interest in Ryan Madson

Ryan Madson
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.

Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.

While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.

Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.

After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.

Trevor Cahill considering the Pirates as a potential destination

Trevor Cahill
AP Photo/Paul Beaty

ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.

It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.

Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.

Blue Jays narrow GM search to two candidates: Tony LaCava and Ross Atkins

Tony LaCava
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.

LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.

Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.