Link-O-Rama: Maybe the Giants can get a refund on Sanchez

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* Freddy Sanchez has missed 23 of 48 games since being traded to San Francisco, managing a measly .619 OPS when his shoulder was healthy enough for him to be in the lineup, and had to be helped off the field last night after twisting his left knee. Suddenly the decision to exercise his $8.1 million option for 2010 isn’t such a no-brainer for the Giants.
* Twins shortstop prospect Trevor Plouffe delivered a walk-off homer yesterday as the United States defeated Australia in the World Cup, giving them the top seed for the tournament’s final round. Also advancing to the eight-team final round are Venezuela, Cuba, Australia, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Canada, and Puerto Rico.
* The bad news is that Brett Tomko has been shut down for the season in the midst of his best pitching in years. The good news is that he finishes with an ERA below 4.00 for the first time since he was a 24-year-old rookie in 1997.
* Josh Hamilton is hoping to return from his back injury by the end of this week, but Michael Young may struggle to play again this season after testing his injured hamstring with some light jogging yesterday.
* In the wake of Cecil Cooper being fired as Astros manager yesterday, Tony La Russa reflected on his 14 years at the helm in St. Louis and indicated that he plans to return in 2010. La Russa is the second-longest-tenured manager in baseball behind Bobby Cox’s two decades in Atlanta.

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.