Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-jin Ryu likely to start for Dodgers in Australia

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Earlier this week, Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson named left-hander Patrick Corbin and right-hander Trevor Cahill as his starters for the upcoming two-game season opening series in Australia from March 22-23. The Dodgers have yet to make an official announcement on their starters for the series, but Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes that things are starting to line up:

The Dodgers have set up Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu to start the two season-opening games in Australia by inserting prospect Zach Lee to start Friday against Texas.

It will be Lee’s first start of the Spring after being slowed by a strained lat muscle.

Manager Don Mattingly won’t confirm any of his plans, but he has told the pitchers their roles.

Mattingly has been coy about the situation until now, leading to some speculation that the Dodgers would hold out on using Kershaw until they return home, but this is the most logical pairing with Zack Greinke working his way back from a calf injury and Josh Beckett slowly building his workload after thoracic outlet surgery. The Dodgers will likely bring Dan Haren on the trip as insurance for Kershaw and Ryu, but assuming he isn’t needed during the series, he would have a pretty long layoff between his final spring training outing and his season debut.

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.