Gio Gonzalez is starting Game 4 for the Nationals tonight, but manager Matt Williams says Game 1 starter Stephen Strasburg will be available out of the bullpen.
Strasburg has never pitched in relief, in the minors or the majors, but it’d be interesting to see how much harder he could throw in a one-inning stint after averaging 94.8 miles per hour as a starter this season.
Williams has not yet announced who would start Game 5 for the Nationals, but Strasburg is available tonight whereas the other candidate, Jordan Zimmermann, would only pitch in an “extreme emergency.”
Here are the lineups for Game 4 of the Nationals-Giants series in San Francisco:
CF Denard Span
3B Anthony Rendon
RF Jayson Werth
1B Adam LaRoche
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
C Wilson Ramos
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
SP Gio Gonzalez
Matt Williams sticks with the same lineup, which means Ryan Zimmerman remains on the bench.
CF Gregor Blanco
2B Joe Panik
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Brandon Belt
SS Brandon Crawford
LF Juan Perez
SP Ryan Vogelsong
With a left-hander on the mound Bruce Bochy makes two changes after Game 3. Juan Perez gets the start in left field over Travis Ishikawa and Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval flip-flop in the 4-5 spots.
According to the Associated Press the value of the free agent qualifying offer has risen from $14.1 million last offseason to $15.3 million this offseason, which means teams hoping to receive draft pick compensation for losing a free agent will need to risk the player accepting a one-year deal for that amount.
Last offseason zero of the 22 players who received $14.1 million qualifying offers accepted them, although several players who turned them down (Kendrys Morales, Stephen Drew) ended up regretting the decision later.
The price of the qualifying offer is the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in baseball and since being introduced in 2012 has risen from $13.3 million to $14.1 million to $15.3 million.
Among the free agents who seem like good bets to receive qualifying offers this winter: Max Scherzer, James Shields, Hanley Ramirez, Victor Martinez, Pablo Sandoval, J.J. Hardy, Russell Martin, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson.
Impending free agents who were traded during the season (Jon Lester, for example) are not eligible to receive qualifying offers.
Blue Jays left-hander Daniel Norris, who made his MLB debut this season at age 21, underwent surgery to remove bone spurs and loose bodies from his elbow.
Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com says the recovery timetable is expected to around six weeks, so Norris should have plenty of time to get healthy for spring training.
Norris is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball and prior to being called up to Toronto he racked up 163 strikeouts in 125 innings at Single-A, Double-A, and Triple-A while posting a 2.53 ERA in 26 combined starts.
In a move sure to generate headlines whether it works in the Dodgers’ favor or not, manager Don Mattingly has benched Yasiel Puig for Game 4 against the Cardinals and is starting Andre Ethier in center field.
On the mound for St. Louis is right-hander Shelby Miller, who had a neutral platoon split this year.
During the regular season Puig hit .307 with a .901 OPS against righties, compared to .253 with a .710 OPS for Ethier. Puig is also a superior defensive center fielder and hit a triple last night after seven straight strikeouts.
Considering how the playoffs have gone so far there’s probably a decent chance Ethier goes 5-for-5 with three homers or something, but this sure looks like a panic move by Mattingly based on small sample sizes or gut feelings or whatever other excuse a manager might give for benching one of his best players in an elimination game.