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Giants to start Tim Lincecum in Game 4, Barry Zito in Game 5

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The Giants made it official after the Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, naming Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito their starters in St. Louis the next two days.

Madison Bumgarner, who took the loss in Game 1 after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings, will spend the rest of the NLCS in the bullpen.

Lincecum pitched two scoreless innings in relief in Game 1, and the Giants made it pretty obvious afterwards that their preference was to pitch in Game 4. It’ll be his first postseason start after three relief appearances in which he’s allowed one run and amassed a 9/1 K/BB ratio in 8 1/3 innings.

Zito will be making his second postseason start. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Reds, yet the Giants won anyway. They’ve prevailed in each of his last 12 starts.

With Lincecum starting, it will be interesting to see what the Giants do behind the plate Thursday. Hector Sanchez was Lincecum’s primary catcher throughout the second half, with Buster Posey often shifting to first base in Lincecum’s starts. However, the Lincecum-Posey pairing has worked out great so far during the postseason relief appearances. If Posey moves to first, then Brandon Belt, who is 3-for-11 with a double and an RBI in the NLCS, will take a seat.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.

Yankees sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Jonathon Niese #49 of the New York Mets delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 17, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images
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Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.

According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.

Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.