Darren Oliver wants a raise to return to Blue Jays for another season

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The Blue Jays exercised their $3 million club option on Darren Oliver earlier this winter in hopes of convincing him to come back for another season, but there’s still no resolution with the 42-year-old left-hander.

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that while Oliver wants to play, he’s not willing to return unless the Blue Jays increase his salary for 2013. His reasoning is that he would rather retire than be away from his family at a salary below the market value.

According to Rosenthal, Oliver figured that he would likely hang it up after 2012 when he signed with the Blue Jays last offseason, but he’s coming off a 2.06 ERA in 56 2/3 innings and a sub-3.00 ERA in each of the past five seasons. In a world where fellow left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt got a three-year, $18 million contract from the Giants, he’s trying to leverage his situation into a better deal. The Blue Jays aren’t blinking yet, as Rosenthal was told by a source that they might need to make some moves just to accommodate his $3 million salary for 2013.

One long-rumored compromise is a trade back to his hometown Rangers, where he pitched from 1993-1998, 2000-2001 and 2010-2011. Rosenthal writes that the veteran southpaw “would welcome” that outcome and would likely be more flexible with his financial requirements if he could be closer to home. There’s no indication that a deal is close, though.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.