Phillies won't ask for three from Lee; turn to Blanton in Game 4

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Manager Charlie Manuel announced Friday that Joe Blanton would start Game 4 for the Phillies on Sunday, essentially setting his rotation for the rest of October.
The guess going in was that the Phillies would try to get away with using Cliff Lee in Games 1, 4 and 7. Blanton still figured to start Game 5 in that arrangement, since the team wouldn’t want to use both Pedro Martinez and Cole Hamels on short rest.
But no one in red will start on short rest now. After Lee pitches in Game 5, it’s safe to assume that the Phillies will go back to Martinez in Game 6 and Hamels in Game 7 on normal rest.
Since the Phillies have bared their hand, we’ll have to wait and see if the Yankees follow suit. The assumption was that the Yankees were leaning towards pitching CC Sabathia on short rest in Game 4 and going to Chad Gaudin in Game 5, with A.J. Burnett following on regular rest in Game 6.
The Yankees could back down now and choose the same cautious route that the Phillies have selected. That would involve starting Gaudin in Game 4 and following with Sabathia, Burnett and Andy Pettitte, all on normal rest.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.