What we're watching: Beckett looks to bounce back

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– Brad Penny makes his first start for the Giants in a big game against Philadelphia. The Phillies won a sterling contest 1-0 last night, as Cole Hamels pitched a two-hit shutout to outduel Jonathan Sanchez. That allowed the Rockies to reclaim a one-game lead in the wild-card race. The Giants will likely need a strong outing from Penny if they hope to hang in there against J.A. Happ, who is 10-3 with a 2.63 ERA. Penny turned in just one quality start in his last five trips to the mound for Boston. He was released by the Red Sox after going 7-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts.
– The Red Sox will be looking for Josh Beckett to bounce back against a Rays team he’s struggled against lately. The former 20-game winner has allowed 20 runs over his last three starts, taking his ERA from 3.10 to 3.80. He’s 1-1 with a 5.60 ERA against Tampa Bay this year, and he gave up 10 runs in 9 1/3 innings versus the club in the ALCS last year. His opponent tonight might just be the one pitcher in the league the Red Sox least like to see: Matt Garza. Garza is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts versus Boston this year. Including last year’s postseason, he’s 7-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox.
Game of the Night
Los Angeles vs. Seattle – Well, technically it’s a late afternoon game in Seattle, but that’s good enough for us East Coasters. Scott Kazmir will make his Angels debut in a showdown against Cy Young contender Felix Hernandez. Kazmir had his high strikeout game of the year in his final start for Tampa Bay before being traded for three prospects. He allowed one run in six innings and fanned 10 against Toronto to finish off a month of August in which he went 3-1 with a 5.10 ERA. Hernandez is aiming for his first win of the year against the Angels after going 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in his first two starts.

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

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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.