Author: Aaron Gleeman

Chris Tillman AP

Chris Tillman will start Game 1 of the ALCS for the Orioles

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As expected, Orioles manager Buck Showalter announced that Chris Tillman will start Game 1 of the ALCS against the Royals.

Tillman started Game 1 of the ALDS versus the Tigers and allowed two runs in five innings of an Orioles blowout victory.

Tillman topped 200 innings in each of the past two seasons and sliced his ERA from 3.71 last year to 3.34 this year despite striking out nearly 20 percent fewer batters per nine innings.

He’ll match up against James Shields on Friday night.

Astros hitting coach John Mallee leaves for same job with Cubs

Bo Porter

Patrick Mooney of reports that Houston hitting coach John Mallee has left the Astros to become the Cubs’ new hitting coach just days after the team parted ways with hitting coach Bill Mueller.

Mallee spent the past two seasons as the Astros’ hitting coach under manager Bo Porter and Brian McTaggart of says he could have stayed on the job under new manager A.J. Hinch, but the Chicago native wanted to return home. Eric Hinske will serve as the Cubs’ assistant hitting coach.

Prior to joining the Astros he was the Marlins’ hitting coach in 2010 and 2011 and has a whole bunch of coaching experience in the minors. So he fits what Cubs president Theo Epstein was looking for as a veteran hitting coach with a lengthy track record, although certainly the quality of that track record is up for debate.

Ryan Zimmerman was “hurt enough not to play” in NLDS

Ryan Zimmerman AP

Ryan Zimmerman was healthy enough for the Nationals to put him on the NLDS roster, so why didn’t he start any games against the Giants? Well, because he wasn’t actually healthy.

Zimmerman, who was out for two months with a hamstring injury and also battled chronic shoulder problems all season, told Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post that he was “hurt enough not to play.”

He was used as a pinch-hitter in every game, but never stayed in to play defense and was pinch-run for following his only hit of the series in Game 2.

His future position has been a constant topic of debate in Washington for a while now because of various injuries and Kilgore writes that Zimmerman “will likely move to first base next season, assuming the Nationals allow Adam LaRoche to leave via free agency.”

Before the shoulder problems Zimmerman was an excellent defensive third baseman and he played exclusively third base from 2006-2013 while logging nearly 10,000 innings there. He’s signed through 2018 at an average of $15 million per season.

Clayton Kershaw really, really wants the Dodgers to keep light-hitting catcher A.J. Ellis

Los Angeles Dodgers v New York Mets

A.J. Ellis hit just .191 this season and would likely get a raise to at least $5 million via the arbitration process, so there’s been some speculation that the Dodgers could part ways with the 33-year-old catcher.

Clayton Kershaw thinks that would be a mistake, telling Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

I don’t know what I’m going to do if he’s not back.  I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go. I know A.J. will land on his feet, but we need him here a lot. … “Just the tireless work that he does, it’s so selfless. It’s invaluable to know that what he’s putting down, there’s so much thought, so much work behind it. It gives me confidence to throw it.

That’s a very positive review of Ellis’ defensive value by the world’s best pitcher, but the Dodgers are no doubt wondering if he’s still capable of being the on-base machine he was from 2010-2012. He had a huge NLDS versus the Cardinals, but during the past two regular seasons seasons Ellis has hit .218 with a .638 OPS. Combined with his age, knee problems, and rising salary that could make it a tough call.

Orioles “pushing to complete” extension with Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz

Baltimore got an incredible bargain by signing Nelson Cruz to a one-year, $8 million contract and now Ken Rosenthal of reports that the Orioles are “pushing to complete” an extension with the 33-year-old impending free agent.

Cruz’s price tag dropped because he was coming off a suspension last season and had draft pick compensation attached to his free agency. So the Orioles picked him up on the cheap and watched as he led the league with 40 homers and hit .271 with an .859 OPS that topped his career mark by 35 points.

Rosenthal reported earlier today that the Orioles were on the verge of signing impending free agent shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year extension worth at least $40 million, so apparently Baltimore’s front office is really taking advantage of the down time between the end of the ALDS and the start of the ALCS.