Contrary to yesterday’s reports that he had already exercised his $3 million option, Jason Varitek held out yesterday, apparently trying to get the Red Sox to renegotiate its terms in an effort to make the incentives more attainable. That according to the Globe’s Pete Abraham, who reports that Scott Boras and Theo Epstein had a late meeting about it all last night. Pete notes, however, that Theo doesn’t sound all that enthused about renegotiating anything, saying that the existing option “seems like a straightforward thing.” Varitek has until today to make his decision. I can’t feature him having any other prospects out there apart from minor league deals and non-roster invites, so if he doesn’t exercise it, it would suggest that he doesn’t want to play anymore. I think he exercises.
In other Sox news Theo strongly hinted that Matt Holliday was a possibility for Boston, saying “Hopefully we’ll sign Jason Bay. But if we can’t, we’ll
have to get creative in left field. It could a big-money guy . . .” The only bigger money guy in left field is clearly Holliday, and a move for him is totally consistent with what we heard yesterday about the Sox’ willingness to spend this winter.
Finally, Pete notes that Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to return to the U.S. relatively early in the offseason for the express purpose of embarking upon a conditioning program. Remember over the summer Dice-K was saying that the Sox were full of it and that he was going to stick with his old Japanese conditioning habits? Yeah, forget that. Theo wins. Theo almost always wins.
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.
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.