Red Sox tell Franklin Morales to prepare as a starting pitcher

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Franklin Morales was used primarily out of the bullpen this past season, but new Red Sox manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe today that the current plan is for him to come into spring training as starting pitcher.

Morales had a 3.77 ERA and 76/30 K/BB ratio in 76 1/3 innings with the Red Sox this year before coming down with shoulder fatigue in late August. The 26-year-old southpaw enjoyed some success during a small sample in the starting rotation, posting a 4.14 ERA and 47/19 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings over nine starts. Once considered one of the top pitching prospects in the game, it was his first stint as a starting pitcher since 2009 as a member of the Rockies.

As of now, the Red Sox have three locks for their rotation next season with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. John Lackey is coming off Tommy John surgery, but he should be in there too if he can avoid setbacks. The Red Sox would probably prefer to keep Morales in the bullpen, especially considering that he wore down toward the end of the season, so plans could change if they add a starting pitcher this offseason.

Zach Britton receives stem cell injection, likely done for the season

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Orioles closer Zach Britton is likely done for the remainder of the 2017 season after receiving a stem cell injection in his left knee, Peter Schmuck and Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun report. Britton has been battling knee problems for most of the season.

The Orioles are still technically in the AL Wild Card race, entering play Thursday 5.5 games behind the Twins for the second Wild Card slot. With only nine games remaining, however, the 73-80 Orioles are likely being realistic about their chances and not taking any unnecessary risks with Britton.

Britton, 29, put up a 2.89 ERA with 15 saves and a 29/18 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings this season. He will be eligible for arbitration for the fourth and final time this offseason.

Dodgers can clinch NL West on Friday

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The Dodgers staved off a four-game series sweep at the hands of the Phillies, winning 5-4 on Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The win reduced their magic number in the NL West to one, meaning that a win against the Giants at home or a Diamondbacks loss to the Marlins on Friday will result in clinching the division.

Of course, the Dodgers winning and the Diamondbacks losing hasn’t exactly been a sure thing lately. The D-Backs rattled off a 13-game winning streak from August 24 through September 6. The Dodgers lost 11 games in a row from September 2-11 and were on a four-game slide before Thursday’s win.

The Dodgers will send Rich Hill to the mound to start opposite Jeff Samardzija. The Diamondbacks have Zack Greinke opposing Adam Conley.