Link-O-Rama: Lester or Beckett in Game 1?

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* Sean McAdam of the Boston Herald reports that the Red Sox will likely start Jon Lester in Game 1 of the ALDS, followed by Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Beckett was MVP of the World Series in 2003 and MVP of the ALCS in 2007, and has a sparkling 7-2 record and 2.90 ERA in 87 postseason innings. Then again, Lester has been the Red Sox’s best pitcher this season and has a 2.25 ERA in 36 postseason innings himself. Can’t go wrong either way, really.
* On a related note, Brad Penny turned in another strong start last night, holding the Cubs to one run over eight innings. Penny and John Smoltz now have a combined 3.24 ERA in 11 starts back in the NL after going 9-13 with a 6.24 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox. Helluva league, that NL.
* After a decade with the Orioles and the 10th-most games in franchise history, Melvin Mora is preparing for life away from Baltimore once his $8 million option for 2010 gets declined. Mora was a 28-year-old utility man when the Orioles got him from the Mets as part of the haul for Mike Bordick in mid-2000, but since then he’s been one of the best third basemen in the league while making two All-Star teams and hitting 158 homers.
* David Brown of Yahoo! Sports did a great interview with Denard Span, who has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the league after once looking like a bust.
* Brandon Webb reiterated yesterday that he’s not interesting in an incentive-laden contract, so if the Diamondbacks want to keep him from becoming a free agent they’ll need to pick up his $8.5 million option for 2010. “I’ve got to go out and see what’s best for me,” Webb said. “I think I can get [$8.5 million] anywhere I want.” And he’s probably right.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.