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An intriguing World Series: Underrated Indians challenge skilled Cubs

An intriguing World Series: Underrated Indians challenge skilled Cubs

The Chicago Cubs won 103 games in the regular season, scoring a tick under five runs per game and allowing 3.4. 

Their fifth best pitcher, Jason Hammel, won 15 games, and hasn’t been on the postseason roster, and they missed an exciting young power hitter, Kyle Schwarber, who played just two games before suffering what was thought to be a season-ending knee injury. 

After two games in the Arizona Fall League, Schwarber is back for the World Series joining a group of exciting young players: Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell. 

Besides these excellent position players, the Cubs have accomplished veteran pitchers. They start with Jon Lester, who’ll be pitching in his 20th postseason game tonight. He has a 2.50 ERA in postseason play. 

Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey follow. Lackey has pitched in even more postseason games than Lester, 25, and his ERA is 3.26. 

Their closer is the ferocious Aroldis Chapman, who in one of his final games with the Yankees before he was traded to the Cubs in late July, threw a 105 mph pitch against the Orioles. 

Do the Cubs have any weaknesses? Yes, they were just 22-23 in one-run games. They fell into a horrible slump when they were shut out in the second and third games of the NLCS, but when they were challenged, they rose up. 

It was only a week ago when after the Dodgers shut them out and they fell behind 2-1 in the NLCS that many worried. Quickly, they recovered and polished off Los Angeles by a combined score of 23-6 in the final three games. 

After they took a 2-0 lead in the Division Series against the Giants, they lost a 13-inning struggle, worrying their fans. When they trailed by three runs heading into the ninth in the fourth game, there was panic—by not by the Cubs. 

A four-run rally won them the game and the Division. 

In a poll of ESPN baseball writers and broadcasters, 26 of 32 picked the Cubs. 

Before I add my endorsement, some words about Chicago’s worthy challenger. 

A World Series matchup is always intriguing, but because of the long arid period for each franchise, it’s even more so. 

Making the World Series for the first time in 71 years won’t be good enough for the Cubs, but it’s interesting that despite all the talk about how hungry their city is for a winner, the White Sox 2005 title is forgotten. 

Of course, the White Sox are hardly as popular as the Cubs, and they haven’t been the postseason since 2008.

US Cellular Field is no Wrigley Field, but neither is Cleveland’s Progressive Field. 

Cleveland’s postseason angst was relieved by LeBron James in June when the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors, and while they haven’t won a World Series since 1948, they did get there in 1995 and 1997. 

The Indians have had a marvelous postseason, beating the Red Sox in three games in the Division Series and overcoming Toronto in five games in the ALCS.

Opposing Lester tonight is one of baseball’s most underappreciated pitchers, Cory Kluber, who won the Cy Young Award in 2014 and will get some votes for it this year. 

The Indians have a terrific young shortstop, Francisco Lindor, and a third baseman, Jose Ramirez, who no one knows, but should. 

In Mike Napoli, Cleveland has one of the most durable and least recognized postseason players of our time. Napoli, who will be 35 on Halloween, set career highs in home runs (34) and RBIs (101).

Did you know Napoli is playing for his eighth postseason team in 11 seasons? 

In 2011, Napoli drove in 10 runs and batted .350 in Texas’ seven-game loss to St. Louis. 

The Indians’ starters were excellent during the regular season, but one of them, Carlos Carrasco is missing this postseason, and another, Danny Salazar may only be available on a restricted basis. 

Somehow, Cleveland got through the Trevor Bauer drone incident without incident, and got to the World Series.

It was Terry Francona’s inventive use of the bullpen, starring three relievers with WHIPs of 1 or below: Cody Allen (1.000), Dan Otero (.0906), and of course, Andrew Miller (.0552).

In 20 postseason innings, Miller has not allowed a run and just six hits. He’s walked three and struck out 31. His postseason WHIP is .0450. 

Miller will be used early and often by Francona, who swept two World Series with Boston in 2004 and 2007. 

The Indians will give the Cubs a challenge, but again Chicago will prevail. They’re just too deep and too skilled for an underrated Indians team. 

Cubs in six. 

MORE MLB: Camden Yards still considered the best

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Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Orioles Spring Training Schedule 2018

Live baseball is close to gracing our television screens again. The Orioles haven't had the most active offseason, to put it mildly. Fans are still wondering who will make up more than half the spots in this year's rotation, and Manny Machado's upcoming free agency is looming over every decision the organization makes.

Still, it's exciting to be able to follow the team again. Not every game is televised, so get ready to constantly refresh your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll be comforting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Jonathan Schoop is building on his breakout season, or if top-prospect Austin Hays is all he's cracked up to be (spoiler: he is).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing in the next few weeks. The O's haven't yet made a big splash this offseason, but with the sheer volume of capable players still on the market, you have to wonder if they'll try to sign some impact players at bargain values.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the lineup or rotation has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be taking place while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hecticfew weeks as teams prepare for thier seasons, so bookmark this page to check on on the Orioles spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Orioles 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Feb. 24 (SS) - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Feb. 26 - Tigers at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Cardinals at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 1 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 (SS) - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Tuesday, Mar. 6 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Orioles at Rays, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 9 - Orioles at Blue Jays, 1:07 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 (SS) - Pirates at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Orioles at Red Sox, 1:05 pm 
Sunday, Mar. 11 (SS) - Phillies at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Orioles at Pirates, 1:05 pm 
Tuesday, Mar. 13 - Orioles at Twins, 1:05 pm 
Wednesday, Mar. 14 - Yankees at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Orioles at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 - Orioles at Mets, 1:10 pm 
Saturday, Mar. 17 (SS) - Blue Jays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Mets at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Orioles at Tigers, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Rays at Orioles, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Orioles at Yankees, 6:35 pm 
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Red Sox at Orioles, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Rays at Orioles, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Twins at Orioles, 6:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Orioles at Phillies, 1:05 pm 
Monday, Mar. 27 (in Norfolk, VA) - Orioles at Tides (AAA), 3:05 pm

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Baltimore Orioles add to their rotation, sign RHP Andrew Cashner

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USA Today Sports

Baltimore Orioles add to their rotation, sign RHP Andrew Cashner

SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Baltimore Orioles signed right-hander Andrew Cashner to a two-year, $16 million contract on Thursday after searching for starting pitching all offseason.

The 31-year-old Cashner is 42-64 with a 3.80 ERA in eight major league seasons with the Chicago Cubs, San Diego, Miami and Texas, including 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA for the Rangers last year. The deal with the Orioles has an option for 2020.

He'll join right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman in the rotation.

"I do know that they need some starting pitching, and here it is, show up every day and whoever I can help out, help out and my job is to come here and pitch and win," Cashner said.

Cashner's deal could be worth $41 million over three seasons if he pitches 200 innings annually. He gets a $3 million signing bonus, payable in equal installments each Jan. 15 from 2020 through 2021.

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Cashner has salaries of $5 million this season and $8 million in 2019, and there is a $10 million option for 2020 that would become guaranteed if he pitches 340 innings combined in the next two seasons. If he reaches 360 innings, it would become a player option.

He can make $5 million in performance bonuses each year.

There are $1,525,000 per season in bonuses based on starts: $250,000 each for 10 and 15, $625,000 for 20 and $400,000 for 30.

Cashner also can make $3,475,000 each year based on innings: $250,000 each for 110 and 120, $275,000 for 130, $350,000 for 140, $750,000 for 150 and $400,000 apiece for 170, 180, 190 and 200.

Cashner was at the Orioles' spring training facility, and was due to head to his Texas home for a few days before returning on Sunday when Baltimore's full squad is required to report. He'll likely work out with the team for the first time Monday.

He has little experience against the Orioles, but said he was excited to join the team.

"It's a lineup you can't really make a lot of mistakes against," Cashner said. "It's a lot of power in there, and I got to pitch (for) San Diego one year in Baltimore. Really cool stadium, really neat, a lot of history. It's one of my favorite places to pitch, so I'm looking forward to making that my home (stadium) every night."

RELATED: ORIOLES TO SHUFFLE UP INFIELD AHEAD OF MACHADO'S FINAL SEASON

Manager Buck Showalter said Cashner would be an ideal addition to the club.

"He's a veteran starter. That's a good deal for both us and him," Showalter said. "He's a guy who's pitched well in the American League. That's something that I think played in his favor."

Cashner said that he began negotiations with Orioles Vice President of Baseball Operations Brady Anderson last fall and in a challenging offseason for free agents, he said patience was vital.

"I don't think it's been difficult. It's been interesting. It's been different," Cashner said.

To make room for Cashner on the 40-man roster, Baltimore placed left-hander Zach Britton (Achilles) on the 60-day disabled list.