Joe Saunders escapes jam to preserve 1-1 tie vs. Rangers through four innings

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Most didn’t give Joe Saunders much of a chance against the Rangers in this game, especially after seeing how Ron Washington stacked his lineup with right-handed batters, but he has allowed one run through four innings to preserve a 1-1 tie.

It hasn’t been easy, though. Saunders walked Ian Kinsler to begin the game. Elvis Andrus then followed with a single to move Kinsler to third. It looked like he was on the ropes three batters into the game, but Saunders got Josh Hamilton to ground into a double-play to kill the rally. A run scored on the play, but the Orioles gladly took it.

The Rangers just threatened again in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Nelson Cruz and Michael Young had consecutive singles with one out. However, Saunders was able to get Mike Napoli to strike out swinging before getting Geovany Soto to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Saunders has allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He has flipped the order over two times with minimal damage. Can’t ask for much more than that given the circumstances.

UPDATE: Make that five innings of one-run ball. You know, just like everybody expected.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.