The Tampa Bay Rays, Ben Zobrist agree to a five-year contract extension

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Ben Zobrist.jpgMarc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays have agreed to a contract extension with 2B/RF Ben Zobrist that could amount to a five-year deal.  Three years — which would be his arbitration years — are guaranteed. The next two years — covering 2014 and 2015, which would be his first two years of free-agency — are team options.  The dollars are not yet known but should be announced later today.

This is the second extension of note this spring which contains a significant team option as opposed to one of those tack-on team options at the end of a long, lucrative deal. Adam Lind was the other.

This is smart for the teams, of course, as it hedges against uncertainty and all of that.  For the players, it probably makes sense if there’s a legitimate question about whether or not a big free agency payday is in the offing. Lind, for example, is a DH and as we all know, the DH market is horrible. Adding those team options makes a lot of sense for him.

It probably makes sense for Zobrist too, given that he’s already in his age 29 season.  He’ll be 33 and 34 in those two years of free agency subject to the option years, and if recent history shows anything, you don’t want to be hitting the free agent market at that age unless you’re a total stud.  I like Ben Zobrist a lot, but he’s not quite in that category.

Obviously final judgment rests upon how much money is involved, but at least in terms of structure, this is a good deal for both parties.

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.