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.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.