Doug Fister

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.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.

Diamondbacks sign Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million deal

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 21:  Fernando Rodney #56 of the Miami Marlins pitches during the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 21, 2016 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.

Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.

Hazen issued a statement following the signing:

With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.