Quick hits: Happ to start Game 3 vs. Rockies

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– Saturday’s snow-out will allow the
Phillies to go with J.A. Happ in Sunday’s Game 3 against the Rockies.
Happ was knocked out of Thursday’s Game 2 after taking a comebacker off
the right shin, but appears to be good to go. With the inclusion of
Happ, the Phillies would presumably start Cliff Lee in Game 4 and Cole
Hamels in Game 5. If things go according to plan, Jayson Stark of ESPN
reports that
the Phillies would be the first team to start five left-handers in a five-game division series. The Mariners started four (Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer and Jeff Fassero) against the Orioles in 1997.



– They’ll have to survive Saturday’s Game 3 first, but manager Tony LaRussa said Chris Carpenter will start on short rest in a probable Game 4 against the Dodgers on Sunday.
Carpenter yielded four runs over five innings in a 5-3 loss in
Wednesday’s Game 1. The Cardinals had considered John Smoltz or Kyle
Lohse for Game 4, but the early deficit has changed LaRussa’s mind. If
it happens, Carpenter, who missed large parts of two seasons following
Tommy John surgery, would be starting on three days rest for the first
time in his major league career.




– While former Nationals skipper Manny Acta acknowledged his interest in the Astros’ managerial vacancy on Friday night, it appears Jim Fregosi is also being considered for the job.
Fregosi, 67, hasn’t managed in the majors since 2000 with the Blue
Jays. He is 1,028-1,095 lifetime, making one World Series appearance
with the Phillies in 1993. Of course, current Astros general manager Ed
Wade was also the general manager of that team. While Fregosi is
highly-regarded for his handling of veteran players, it’s hardly an
inspiring choice for a team that has failed to make a postseason
appearance since losing in the World Series in 2005.




– And finally, Memories of Kevin Malone points out
that those with postseason inexperience (Randy Wolf, Cliff Lee, Adam
Wainwright, Brian Duensing and Clayton Kershaw) have outperformed those
who have been there before (Chris Carpenter, Cole Hamels, C.C.
Sabathia, John Lackey, Aaron Cook, Jon Lester, Ubaldo Jimenez). This is
a small sample-size, to be sure, but it goes back to what Jim Leyland
always says: Take talent over experience.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.