Barry Zito could serve as a long reliever for the Athletics

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Barry Zito, on a minor league deal with the Athletics has had a strong start to the spring. With three more shutout innings against the Dodgers on Friday, Zito lowered his Cactus League ERA to 3.09. He’s gone multiple innings in all four of his outings, working as if he were to contribute as a starting pitcher.

However, the Athletics’ starting rotation battle is already packed with Jesse Hahn, Jesse Chavez, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Bassitt, Sean Nolan, and Kendall Graveman. There just doesn’t seem to be room to take a gamble on Zito bouncing back after taking the 2014 season off. CSN Bay Area’s Joe Stiglich suggests Zito could contribute to the A’s as a long reliever. He noted that manager Bob Melvin said he thinks his team needs a long reliever as well.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle thinks Zito is a long shot to make the roster, but seems likely to wind up on someone else’s roster.

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.