Tigers announce ALCS rotation, open with Doug Fister

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Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced his ALCS rotation with Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez getting the ball in the first two games in New York this weekend.

Justin Verlander is scheduled to pitch Game 3 and a potential Game 7. Max Scherzer will be held back until Game 4, meaning he’ll get just one start against the Yankees.

A healthy Scherzer would have almost certainly been the Tigers’ No. 2 starter in the postseason after he went 8-2 with a 2.69 ERA and a 110/27 K/BB ratio in 90 1/3 innings after the All-Star break, but he missed a start in the next-to-last week of the regular season with a sore shoulder and also hurt his ankle. As a result, he was held back until Game 4 of the ALDS. He allowed just an unearned run over 5 1/3 innings and struck out eight in the contest, which the Tigers lost in the bottom of the ninth.

The Tigers aren’t in bad shape with Sanchez going in Game 2 instead. He had a 2.43 ERA in six starts in September, and while he lost his ALDS start, he gave up only two runs in 6 1/3 innings versus the A’s. It is worth noting that he was lit up by the Yankees in his one start against them this season, surrendering seven runs in three innings.

Plus, the Tigers are in much better position for the series thanks to their day off Friday, allowing them to use all four of their starters on regular rest. The Yankees are faced with potentially going with Hiroki Kuroda on short rest or pitching David Phelps in Game 2. Also, they’ll have to use CC Sabathia on three days’ rest at some point in order to get two starts out of him.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.