Madison Bumgarner “almost surely will start Game 4”

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Bruce Bochy hasn’t announced anything official about his Game 4 starter choice, leaving room to change his mind depending on how the Giants fare through three games, but Chris Haft of MLB.com writes that rookie Madison Bumgarner “almost surely will start Game 4.”

Turning to Tim Lincecum on short rest is the other option for Bochy, but Haft seems certain that won’t happen regardless of how the reigning back-to-back Cy Young winner fares in the series opener tomorrow night. Bochy has said only that he’s “penciled” in Bumgarner for the start but may still “call an audible.”

Bumgarner looked terrible while competing for a rotation spot during spring training and then continued to struggle after beginning the season in the minors, but eventually rediscovered the velocity and raw stuff that made him one of baseball’s best pitching prospects coming into the season and posted a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts after joining the Giants in late June.

He had a 1.18 ERA and 34/7 K/BB ratio in his final six regular season starts and tossed six innings of two-run ball in a win over the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS, so the 21-year-old southpaw is definitely up for the challenge. He’ll likely be matched up against Joe Blanton, although manager Charlie Manuel also left open the possibility that he could turn to Roy Halladay on short rest if the Phillies are trailing in the series.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.