Joe Saunders expected to make decision this week on where he’ll sign

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After holding out for a three-year deal for most of the winter, it appears that Joe Saunders is close to deciding where he’ll pitch in 2013.

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said at the team’s FanFest event today that Saunders is “probably going to make a decision this week.” The Orioles have maintained interest in retaining the veteran southpaw, but Duquette doesn’t have a “real sense” of whether he’ll be back and plans to pursue other veteran pitchers if he opts to sign elsewhere.

Saunders is unlikely to get the three-year contract he covets this late in the winter, so he may have to settle for a one- or two-year deal. The Twins and Mets are among the other clubs who have been connected to him in recent days.

Saunders, 31, posted a 4.07 ERA and 112/39 K/BB ratio over 174 2/3 innings last season with the Diamondbacks and Orioles. He owns a 4.15 ERA over eight seasons in the majors.

2017 Preview: The American League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League East

Boston may have the most talent and, in Mookie Betts, the best player. The Yankees have the best farm system. Baltimore has all the dingers and the best closer. Toronto may have the best collection of heels, at least in the view of fans of the other AL East teams.  The Rays have the best . . . hmm. I’ll get back to you on that.

Anyway, here are our previews for the American League East:

Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.