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.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.