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.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.