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.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.