Lots of history in today's Rays-Blue Jays game

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Some good, some bad.

I’m gonna throw you for a loop and start with the bad. James Shields tied a modern day major league record by giving up six home runs in this afternoon’s 17-11 loss to the Blue Jays. Shields is the eighth pitcher since 1920 to do it and the first since R.A. Dickey as a member of the Rangers in 2006.

There’s something inherently fluky about an outing like this, but the Jays entered the day with more home runs than anyone and Shields has struggled with the gopher ball all year long, so there was obviously the potential for disaster here. That’s pretty much what happened, as the Rays dropped their fourth consecutive game, a season-high.

Okay, now on to the good stuff. The Jays connected for eight home runs this afternoon. According to the fine folks at STATS LLC, the Yankees were the last team to hit eight homers in a game, back on July 31, 2007. Yes, Jose Bautista padded his major league lead with his 34th home run and Aaron Hill hit two homers of his own, but everybody is talking about the major league debut of J.P. Arencibia.

Arencibia, who was called up from Triple-A Las Vegas after John Buck was placed on the DL this week, went 4-for-5 with two home runs. In fact, he slugged a two-run homer off Shields on the very first pitch he saw in the second inning. He became the first Jays player to homer in his first major league at-bat since Junior Felix on May 4, 1989.

Arencibia later added a solo shot in the sixth. With a single and double, the former 2007 first-round pick finished a triple short of the cycle. According to Jordan Bastian of MLB.com, Arencibia is the first player since 1900 to have two homers and four hits in his first major league game. That’s quite an introduction. I hate using the old Wally Pipp analogy, but Buck might have to take a back seat to Arencibia when he returns.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.