Smoltz expects to make Red Sox debut next week

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During a radio interview this morning John Smoltz said
that he expects to make his Red Sox debut on either Tuesday or
Wednesday of next week “if everything goes the way it continues to go.”

Smoltz’s
arrival in Boston has been pushed back slightly, so he’ll make one
additional minor-league rehab start than initially expected after
allowing four runs in six innings last week at Triple-A.

Regardless
of whether his first start comes Tuesday or Wednesday it would be
against the Nationals, but interestingly starting Tuesday would line
him up to face the Braves in his second outing. If you’re into drama,
that’s the scenario to root for.

As of now Brad Penny is lined up
to pitch Tuesday, with Jon Lester slated for Wednesday, but there’s
been tons of speculation about Penny being traded to clear a spot for
Smoltz. Normally it would be a mistake to give up an asset like Penny
to make room for a pitcher who a) may not be a significant upgrade, and
b) comes with plenty of injury risk.

However, as Bob discussed this morning
Boston would still have plenty of rotation depth even if Penny is
traded and Smoltz’s comeback hits a snag. In fact, the Red Sox’s
overall pitching depth is so plentiful that Ken Rosenthal of
FOXSports.com reports that they’ve been shopping setup man Takashi Saito in the hopes of swapping him for a prospect.

Penny
has a 4.10 ERA and 38/9 K/BB ratio in eight starts since a poor April
and Saito has a 2.42 ERA with a 22/7 K/BB ratio in 22.1 innings
overall, which tells you how stacked the Red Sox are with quality arms.
Boston’s bullpen leads baseball with a 3.01 ERA and for now at least
MLB-ready top prospects Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden rank as the
team’s No. 7 and No. 8 starters.

Noah Syndergaard scratched with a “tired arm”

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Mets manager Terry Collins says that he has scratched Noah Syndergaard, who was supposed to start this afternoon’s game against the Braves. In his place will go Matt Harvey.

Syndergaard, Collins says, has “tired arm.” But also says he has some discomfort in his right biceps. He will have an MRI, but Syndergaard says it’s not serious and that he could pitch as soon as Sunday. Collins says this is an abundance-of-caution type thing, saying “we can’t take a chance on this guy.” Which is true.

The Mets ace is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings. He has walked no one this year. Not a soul.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.