Daily Dose: Tigers get Huff from Orioles

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Detroit added Aubrey Huff to the mix Monday, sending 2008 fourth-round pick Brett Jacobson to Baltimore for the 32-year-old veteran. Huff was one of the best hitters in baseball last season, but has seen his OPS drop nearly 200 points this year while batting .253/.321/.405 in 110 games. Those numbers would be Huff’s worst since he was a rookie in 2001, so he figures to bounce back, especially versus righties.
However, finding a spot for him defensively could prove difficult for the Tigers. Huff has played only first base and designated hitter this season, was a terrible defensive third basemen even when he was playing there regularly, and hasn’t spent a single inning in the outfield since 2006. He’s not going to bump Miguel Cabrera from first base and Carlos Guillen seems entrenched at DH, so things could get tricky.
In theory he provides a backup plan at third base should Brandon Inge’s knee issues linger, but going from Inge to Huff would be a massive downgrade defensively. His best fit is probably in left field, platooning with the right-handed Marcus Thames, but the Tigers could also use Huff as a way to lessen Magglio Ordonez’s playing time as he nears the plate appearances needed to trigger next year’s $18 million option.
While the Tigers pick up a useful left-handed hitter and the Orioles get a decent relief prospect, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Vicente Padilla signed a three-year, $33.75 million contract extension after going 15-10 with a 4.50 ERA in 200 innings spread over 33 starts in 2006, but has posted a 5.09 ERA in 70 starts since. Texas designated him for assignment last week and released him outright Monday, eating the rest of his $12 million salary for this season while dropping another $1.75 million to buy out his $12 million option for 2010.
Padilla hasn’t had an ERA below 4.50 since 2003, has dealt with several injuries that includes a recent bout with swine flu, and the Rangers’ pitching staff is significantly improved, so simply cutting him loose has little chance of keeping general manager Jon Daniels up at night. With that said, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a contender take a flier on Padilla down the stretch, because he’s still a reasonable fifth starter.
* Speaking of veteran pitchers getting released Monday, as expected the Red Sox cut John Smoltz loose. Smoltz reportedly balked at a possible move to the bullpen and the Red Sox had obviously seen enough of him as a starter after eight mostly terrible outings. He’s now free to sign anywhere and there’s speculation that at least a half-dozen teams could be vying for his services.
I’m still convinced that Smoltz can get big-league hitters out, but would certainly give him a shot in middle relief long before letting him take the mound as a starter again. He generally pitched fairly well during his first trip through the order and was pretty effective against right-handed batters, so bullpen work seems like the best remaining bet for the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer.
AL Quick Hits: No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley agreed to a last-minute deal with the Mariners that’s reportedly worth nearly $10 million … Meanwhile, the Rangers failed to sign first-round pick Matt Purke … Joe Mauer came up a triple short of the cycle Monday and also stole a base while boosting his batting average to .380 … Justin Morneau left Monday’s game with dizziness, either from the Texas heat or sickness from watching the Twins’ pitching staff … Vladimir Guerrero went deep twice and knocked in five runs Monday, giving him six long balls in 10 games … Matt Harrison (ribs) said Monday that “there’s a chance” he could pitch again this year … Francisco Liriano could be headed to the bullpen or the disabled list after coughing up seven runs in two innings Monday … Tigers first rounder Jacob Turner landed a big-league deal worth as much as $7 million, which is pretty amazing for a high-school pitcher.
NL Quick Hits: With just a few minutes remaining before Monday’s midnight signing deadline, No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreed to a deal that will reportedly pay him over $15 million … Tommy Hanson improved to 8-2 with another solid outing Monday and has 16 strikeouts versus zero walks in his last two starts … Garrett Jones went deep again Monday, giving the career minor leaguer 13 homers in 158 at-bats … Nate McLouth (hamstring) was placed on the disabled list Monday, so the Braves will shift Ryan Church to center field with Matt Diaz manning right field … Hiroki Kuroda (concussion) will miss his next start, but hopes to avoid the DL … Max Scherzer gave up nine runs Monday, but his own error made six of them unearned … No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate will bypass college after inking a $6.25 million deal with the Padres … Todd Wellemeyer (elbow) has been cleared to resume throwing.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.