Which teams will fire their managers this offseason?

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As Bob Nightengale notes in the USA Today, there’s a chance for an unprecedented number of managerial changes this year.

Nightengale does his own rundown, but for fun, I’m going to say there will be eight changes: Blue Jays, White Sox, Mariners, Braves, Marlins, Mets, Brewers, and Diamondbacks (I don’t include the Dodgers, who will be moving Don Mattingly into the job, but if you want to count them, make it nine).

Thoughts:

  • The Jays and Braves are forgone conclusions, what with Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston retiring. I don’t think the Mariners, Marlins, Mets and Brewers declining to retain their current skippers are much more controversial choices. I suppose Kirk Gibson could stay on, but I just kind of doubt it. I think Kevin Towers will get the GM job in Arizona that he’ll want to go with his own man.
  • Ozzie Guillen leaving Chicago is perhaps a bit of a longshot — he’s under contract — but I get the feeling that the Kenny Williams/Ozzie show has run its course, and Guillen will be allowed to leave for Florida, technically because he’ll be fired, but that it will really be a mutual agreement kind of thing.
  • I think Tony La Russa will stay on with the Cardinals one more year. I’ve gone back and forth on this, but Pujols is guaranteed to be there in 2011 because of the team option, and I could see La Russa wanting to ride that horse for one more season, leaving just before the team gets over-leveraged on salary or (perish the thought) Pujols leaves in a P.R. nightmare.
  • Finally, I didn’t include the Cubs on that list as I’m hearing more and more that ownership and — more importantly — the players really like Mike Quade, and I think the Cubs will make the controversial but ultimately wise move to keep him on.

So those are my predictions. How about yours?

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.