Daily Dose: Johnson wins No. 300

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Randy Johnson became the 24th member of the 300-win club Thursday,
tossing six innings of one-run ball against Washington. It wasn’t
exactly vintage Big Unit, as Johnson managed only two strikeouts and
threw just 78 pitches one day after his start was delayed by rain, but
with just two hits and two walks he was plenty effective and the lone
run was unearned.

At 45 he’s the second-oldest pitcher to reach 300 wins, behind only
46-year-old Phil Niekro, and Johnson joins Warren Spahn, Steve Carlton,
Eddie Plank, Lefty Grove, and Tom Glavine as the 300-win southpaws. And
while it might not have registered with most people thanks to the name
change from Expos to Nationals, Johnson won No. 300 against the
franchise that he debuted with back in 1988.

While media members with zero sense of history misguidedly proclaim
Johnson the last 300-game winner, here are some other notes from around
baseball …

* Dontrelle Willis fared reasonably well in his first four starts
and cruised through the first two innings Thursday, but unraveled in
the third inning by hitting a batter and walking four, including the
last two with the bases loaded. His five runs tied for the most allowed
without giving up a hit during the last 55 years, joining Mark Fidrych,
Sandy Koufax, Mitch Williams, Pat Combs, and Mark Hutton.

* Andrew McCutchen had a nice MLB debut Thursday, going 2-for-4 with
a walk, a stolen base, and three runs while leading off and taking over
for Nate McLouth in center field. Gordon Beckham’s debut didn’t go
quite so well, as he was hitless in three at-bats. Beckham batted
eighth, played third base, and as Ozzie Guillen put it “had a bad day
just like everyone else” as the White Sox were shut out.

* Chien-Ming Wang’s return to the rotation was a mixed bag Thursday
afternoon, as five runs in 4.2 innings isn’t as bad as it looks against
a strong Texas lineup in a good ballpark for hitting. It certainly
wasn’t an impressive start, but he showed good velocity while inducing
eight ground-ball outs and struck out five versus just one walk.
Unfortunately for Wang, he has no time to settle in with Boston next.

* Cole Hamels’ year began with injuries and ineffectiveness, but
that now seems like a distant memory following his complete-game
shutout Thursday against the Dodgers. He needed just 97 pitches to
record 27 outs, striking out five, walking zero, and allowing five
hits. And since giving up a dozen runs through two starts, Hamels is
4-0 with a 2.84 ERA and 44/8 K/BB ratio in 44.1 innings.

* Miguel Cabrera left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury, but
not before the Tigers oddly allowed him limp home from second base on a
Brandon Inge double after being looked at by trainers prior to the
at-bat. Cabrera somehow avoided an immediate removal despite being in
obvious pain and then could barely walk/jog the 180 feet to the plate,
at which point he was pulled in favor of Jeff Larish.

AL Quick Hits: Adam Lind went 5-for-5 with three doubles
Thursday and now has hits in a team-record eight straight at-bats …
David Ortiz said Thursday that he’s considering getting his eyes
“checked out” … James Shields threw eight innings of two-run ball
Thursday and J.P. Howell closed out his win … Scott Baker struck out 10
while dropping his ERA below 6.00 for the first time Thursday … Fausto
Carmona kept struggling Thursday, coughing up seven runs as his ERA
climbed to 7.42 … Mike Aviles’ rehab has been shut down for two weeks
as he attempts to come back from a forearm strain … John Lackey allowed
two runs over seven innings Thursday, but the bullpen cost him a win …
Jason Kubel smacked a pair of three-run homers Thursday … Brett
Anderson tossed seven scoreless innings Thursday after posting a 6.38
ERA in May … Travis Hafner (shoulder) is due off the disabled list
Friday, but is unlikely to get everyday playing time initially.

NL Quick Hits: Garrett Atkins hadn’t homered since April 27, but
went deep twice Thursday … Chris Carpenter needed just 95 pitches for a
complete-game victory Thursday, allowing one run on three hits … Anibal
Sanchez is reportedly headed right back to the disabled list after
aggravating his shoulder injury … Brett Myers underwent hip surgery
Thursday and will likely miss the rest of the year … Kyle Lohse looks
destined for another DL stint after tweaking his forearm injury … J.J.
Putz will have his sore elbow examined Friday and might need surgery …
Wandy Rodriguez was knocked around again Thursday and has now allowed
18 runs in his last three starts … Mike Pelfrey’s streak of five
straight Quality Starts ended with nine runs Thursday … Josh Johnson
tossed 7.2 innings of two-run ball and hit a three-run homer Thursday …
Shane Victorino missed Thursday with a sore hip … Andy LaRoche left
Thursday’s game after being plunked on the knee.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.