Link-O-Rama: Slothburg, LeVon, and LaPorta

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* Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg put together a nice roundup of stories about just how out of shape Stephen Strasburg was when he first arrived at San Diego State. He weighed 250 pounds, was throwing up 10 minutes into the team’s first workout, had teammates wondering if there was something medically wrong with him, and earned the nickname “Slothburg.” And now just two years later he’s the best pitching prospect in baseball with a deal worth over $15 million. Amazing.
* Speaking of draft picks, the Rays are accused of not attempting to sign first rounder LeVon Washington. Washington’s father explained that the Rays didn’t live up to a pre-draft agreement and never increased their offer from the recommended slot bonus, adding: “I’m convinced that they didn’t want to sign him.” Offering the slot bonus is hardly out of line, but the Rays may have decided that they weren’t all that high on anyone available with at No. 30 and would rather take their chances with a compensation pick one place lower next year.
* Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Indians manager Eric Wedge avoided giving Matt LaPorta consistent playing time earlier this season because he was “still trying to orchestrate a miracle by getting the Indians back in contention” and “was also trying to save his job.” While that’s no doubt true, the notion that playing one of the better hitting prospects in baseball wouldn’t have helped on both of those fronts is odd to say the least.
* Brandon Phillips exited this afternoon’s game with a sore left wrist, which is where he was plunked by a J.D. Martin fastball over the weekend.

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.