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.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.
Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:
I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.
The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.
The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.
Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.
Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.
The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.