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Shaun Marcum: NLCS Game 6 “the biggest of my career”

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Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum is well aware of what’s at stake in Sunday night’s NLCS Game 6 against the Cardinals. He never made it to the postseason during his five years with the Blue Jays and has struggled mightily in his first two October outings for Milwaukee. The guy needs to rebound.

“It’s exciting,” Marcum told ESPN’s Amy K. Nelson after a light team workout on Saturday afternoon. “It’s definitely the biggest game of my career.”

Marcum allowed seven earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings during a start against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and surrendered five earned runs in just four innings in Game 2 of the NLCS against St. Louis. For the postseason, he’s sporting a 12.46 ERA.

But Marcum told Nelson that he’s “used to getting beat up” from his days in the American League East and believes he has an altered game plan that will help him find success Sunday night at Miller Park. It’s about locating first with his fastball, then changing speeds on the Cardinals’ hot-hitting lineup.

“I feel great, actually,” Marcum said Saturday. “Arm feels good, body feels good. It’s just matter of going out there and locating and keeping the ball down, throwing strikes to stay ahead of the hitters.”

First pitch is scheduled for just after 8:00 p.m. ET on TBS. Craig will be hosting a live chat here on HBT.

Shohei Otani may come to the United States after 2017

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Last week it was widely speculated that Shohei Otani, the highly-touted Japanese pitcher/designated hitter who stars for the Nippon Ham Fighters, would not come to the United States to play due to changes in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The upshot: the new CBA caps money available to international free agents under age 25 at $5-6 million and Otani, 22, would be worth way more than that, so why take the pay cut?

Now, however, Jeff Passan of Yahoo reports that the Fighters are set to post Shotei Otani following the 2017 season. Passan says that his sources have told him that there are potential ways around the limit on spending for under-25 players like Shohei Otani and he links a Japanese article from Sponichi which says the Fighters would post him after the 2017 season.

It’d be interesting to see what that loophole is. Without knowing the exact terms of the CBA on this score it’s impossible to know, but one possibility is that there are different rules applicable to those with professional experience in other countries as opposed to amateur free agents.

Whatever the case, the notion that we could see Otani in the U.S. at age 23 or 24 is pretty exciting.

Report: Phillies close to signing Joaquin Benoit

ANAHEIM, CA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Joaquin Benoit #53 of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches during the seventh inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 15, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.

Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.

Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.

The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.