Kazmir makes return against Marlins

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Scott Kazmir, sidelined for over a month due to a strained right quad,
will make his return to the Rays rotation on Saturday against the
Marlins. But just how effective he will be is up for debate. The
25-year-old southpaw was awful in his first nine starts, compiling a
7.69 ERA and 35/29 K/BB ratio in 45 2/3 innings. But the Rays were
encouraged enough after two rehab starts — where he allowed just one
run over 10 2/3 innings — to bring him back.

It doesn’t take many charts and graphs to tell you that something
has been off with Kazmir. Seeing his flyball rate increase to a
career-high 48.9% last season, at least he decided to incorporate his
slider again in 2009, but a noticeable drop in velocity (average of
80.4 MPH as opposed to 84.8 MPH in 2007) has made the pitch the
complete opposite of a weapon.

And it isn’t just his slider that has suffered. His fastball has
lost over 2 MPH from last season (from 91.8 to 89.7) and almost three
MPH from 2007 (92.4). It should come as no surprise that his strikeout
rate has decreased every year from 2007 (10.41 K/9) to it’s current
6.90. While control has always been an issue for Kazmir, it’s become an
even bigger one now that he can’t put batters away. He’s seen that
shoot up from 3.88 BB/9 in 2007 to 5.72 this season.

The Rays hope that Kazmir’s refined mechanics, namely an effort to shorten his stride, will net better results. We’ll see in just over an hour from now.

Orioles defeat Blue Jays to move into Wild Card tie, eliminate Yankees and Astros from Wild Card contention

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 21:  Starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez #31 of the Baltimore Orioles throws to a Boston Red Sox batter in the first inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 21, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Orioles beat the Blue Jays again on Thursday evening, 4-0, and in doing so eliminated the Yankees and Astros from contention in the American League Wild Card race.

The offense pecked away with a run in each of the third, fourth, seventh, and eighth innings. Starter Ubaldo Jimenez limited the Jays to one hit and three walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Donnie Hart got the final out of the seventh. Brad Brach dominated with two scoreless innings to finish out the ballgame.

The Orioles and Blue Jays are now tied for the first and second Wild Card slots in the AL. The Tigers’ game with the Indians was postponed due to rain and they now sit 1.5 games behind both the O’s and Jays. The Mariners and Athletics game will begin shortly with the Mariners 2.5 games behind.

Report: Rockies haven’t discussed contract extension with Nolan Arenado

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 23: Nolan Arenado #28 of the Colorado Rockies runs the bases after hitting a solo homerun in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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In a mailbag published on Thursday, Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post says he has spoken with Arenado and his agent from the Wasserman Media Group. Based on that, he says the Rockies have not broached the subject of a contract extension with the All-Star third baseman.

Arenado will enter his second of four years of arbitration eligibility after earning $5 million for the 2016 season. He’s due to a hefty pay raise and will continue on that track into free agency after the 2019 season. It may behoove the Rockies to get extension talks started sooner rather than later. Saunders, however, thinks that Arenado wants to see if the Rockies become contenders in the next two seasons before signing the dotted line.

Arenado, 25, enters Thursday’s action batting .293/.361/.567 with 40 home runs, 130 RBI, and 112 runs scored in 678 plate appearances. His 40 homers is best in the National League and the 130 RBI are best in the majors. He has an argument for winning the National League Most Valauble Player Award.