Arms race in NL West: Dodgers add Thome, Garland; Rockies get Contreras

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The Brad Penny pickup set off a chain reaction in the NL West, as the two remaining contenders also picked up pieces before the Monday night deadline to have new acquisitions qualify for postseason play.
The Dodgers landed a potential Hall of Famer in Jim Thome, but right-hander Jon Garland may well prove to be the bigger pickup. That’s because even if the Dodgers were willing to sacrifice defense at first base, Thome just isn’t much more than an emergency option in the field at this point of his career. He’ll be used strictly off the bench for his fourth major league team, at least until the World Series. He’s hit .206/.354/.365 in 63 at-bats as a pinch-hitter in his career. Over the last two years, he’s 1-for-15.
Garland is the second addition to the Dodger rotation in as many weeks, joining Vicente Padilla. He struggled in his first two months in the NL, but he’s amassed a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Also encouraging is his 50/15 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings over the last two months. He figures to replace Charlie Haeger for now, putting him in the rotation alongside Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. If Hiroki Kuroda can return in a week or two as hoped, then Padilla would likely head to the pen.
The Rockies also wanted Garland, but settled for Jose Contreras, who was 5-13 with a 5.42 ERA in 114 2/3 innings for the White Sox. Surprisingly, they’re sending back a decent prospect in Brandon Hynick, who was thought to be a possibility to take over as their new fifth starter. Hynick has a below average fastball, but his splitter is a nice pitch and he displays very good command. He might take over the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation. Contreras will try to help replace the injured Aaron Cook in Colorado. He seems to be on his last legs, but the league switch might do him some good.
Along with acquiring Hynick, the White Sox picked up infielder Justin Fuller for Thome. A 2006 11th-round pick, Fuller has hit .254/.340/.418 in 177 at-bats for high-A Inland Empire this year. He has a quality glove and he bats left-handed, so if he starts to show some offensive ability, he’ll get looks as a utilityman. He’s a long shot, though. With Thome gone, they’ll likely give Josh Fields significant time at DH in September. It could be his last chance with the club.

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.