Firing up the Hot Stove: Relievers

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This is the second article in an eight-part series examining this winter’s free agents and looking at potential trade candidates and non-tenders. I’m also predicting contracts and destinations for the major free agents, but given that it’s August, those are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Relief Pitchers
Mariano Rivera (Yankees) – Even if he were a robot, Rivera would probably have some rust on him by now. Instead, he’s on pace to establish a new career-best ERA at age 40. He’s at 1.06 at the moment, and it comes with an incredible 0.71 WHIP in 42 1/3 innings. He’s pitched significantly better in the seasons since signing a three-year, $45 million deal with the Yankees than he did in the three years prior. It’s a given that he’ll stay in New York as the game’s highest-paid reliever, and if he wants another three-year deal, how can the Yankees really say no? Maybe he’ll settle for two, though.
Prediction: Yankees – two years, $32 million
Rafael Soriano (Rays) – The poor market for closers last winter forced Soriano to accept arbitration from the Braves. Atlanta then traded him to the Rays, and he signed for $7.5 million. Now that he’s firmly established himself as a closer while going 33-for-35 in save attempts so far this season, Soriano shouldn’t have any difficulty landing a multiyear deal. He just needs to finish the season healthy. While Soriano has dealt with major arm woes several times in his career, he’s on pace to throw 60 innings for the fourth time in five seasons. The Rays figure to make an attempt to re-sign him, but they could be outbid by the Angels, White Sox or Nationals.
Prediction: Nationals – three years, $24 million
Scott Downs (Blue Jays) – Knowing that they’d be in line for two draft picks if he left as a free agent, the Blue Jays set a very high price for Downs at the trade deadline. Similar relievers have been forced to accept arbitration as free agents because no teams wanted to surrender high picks to sign them. Downs, though, seems likely to get a three-year deal with his track record. Outside of a 2009 season in which he was injured and still fairly effective, he’s been one of the game’s top setup men four years running. The Red Sox, Angels, Mariners and Phillies look like potential suitors.
Prediction: Red Sox – three years, $16.5 million
Frank Francisco (Rangers) – Francisco was a fine closer for the Rangers in 2009, going 25-for-29 in save chances. He was quickly supplanted in that role by Neftali Feliz this year, but since giving up six runs in his first three appearances, he has a 2.92 ERA and a 56/15 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings. Francisco has dealt with his share of arm problems, and while his command has improved a bunch through the years, he still has his bad days. It might be that the large-market teams will shy away from offering him multiyear deals to serve as a setup man. There will be lesser teams interested in him as a closer, though.
Prediction: Pirates – two years, $12 milion
Kerry Wood (Yankees) – So far, so good for Wood in pinstripes, as he’s allowed one run in seven innings to date. Of course, the Yankees still aren’t going to touch his $11 million option for 2011. Wood has been a disappointment the last two years, so he may have to choose between closing for a non-contender or serving as a setup man on a large-market team next year. He’d need a strong finish if he expects a team like the Rays or Angels to want him as a closer.
Prediction: Rays – one year, $5 million
J.J. Putz (White Sox) – Just when it looked like Putz was on his way to taking over as the White Sox’s closer and setting himself up for a multiyear deal, he took three losses and two blown saves in his last four appearances. His numbers for the season remain stellar: 2.64 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 52/10 K/BB in 44 1/3 IP. Still, he’ll need to finish strong in order to land that two- or three-year contract. The White Sox should have the flexibility to re-sign him with Bobby Jenks likely to depart. However, they may want to go after more of a sure thing.
Prediction: White Sox – two years, $9 million
Pedro Feliciano (Mets) – Feliciano is much more of a specialist than Downs, so he can’t expect as big of a paycheck. Still, there are a lot of teams that would love to him. He’s on pace to make 80 appearances for the fourth straight season, and he has a career ERA of 3.28 in 353 2/3 innings. Odds are that he’ll have a whole bunch of two-year offers to choose from. The team that goes to three years could be the one that lands him.
Prediction: Mets – three years, $10.5 million
Grant Balfour (Rays) – Before suffering an intercostal strain horsing around in the bullpen, Balfour had a 2.08 ERA and a 44/13 K/BB ratio in 43 1/3 innings this season. He’s lost something on his fastball since striking out 84 in 58 1/3 innings in 2008, but he’s become more of a pitcher now and he’s probably a better bet going forward as a result. A team could do worse in the closer’s role.
Prediction: Braves – two years, $8 million
Jesse Crain (Twins) – Crain has been unable to fulfill expectations since winning 12 games in relief as a rookie, but he’s setting himself up for a nice contract with his performance of late. He’s allowed only one run in his last 23 1/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 5.33 to 2.90. He’s just 29 and some teams may view him as not having reached his ceiling yet, so it’s possible he’ll get a three-year deal.
Prediction: Brewers – two years, $8 million
Jon Rauch (Twins) – Rauch filled in more than adequately for Joe Nathan for four months, picking up 21 saves in 25 chances. It’s helped a bunch that Target Field has been an awful park for home runs. Rauch functions best in a big ballpark, and he’d be a fine choice to set up for Nathan next year if the Twins want to go that direction. The only way that happens, though, is if Matt Capps gets traded. He should be in line for about $3 million per year.
Prediction: Mariners – two years, $7 million
Matt Guerrier (Twins) – When Guerrier struggled in 2008, it appeared that the league had caught up with him. However, 2010 will be his fifth excellent season in the last six. Apart from 2008, his highest ERA as a major leaguer was a 3.39 mark in 2005. Some will remain skeptical, since Guerrier’s success comes with a below average fastball and a modest strikeout rate. Still, his track record will get him at least a two-year deal.
Prediction: Twins – two years, $7 million
Joaquin Benoit (Rays) – Back from the shoulder surgery that cost him all of 2009, Benoit has been amazing for the Rays this season, giving up just six runs in 43 2/3 innings. He has an incredible 60/7 K/BB ratio. Benoit has never done anything like this before, though he did have a 2.85 ERA in 82 innings for Texas in 2007. He’s sure to get some multiyear offers if he finishes strong, but he’ll be a risky signing. I think he’ll probably end up as a setup man for a large-market club.
Prediction: Angels – two years, $6 million
Koji Uehara (Orioles) – Uehara just hasn’t been able to stay healthy since leaving Japan and signing a two-year, $10 million deal with the Orioles, but he’s been terrific this year when he’s been able to pitch. Through 24 innings, he has a 1.88 ERA and a 28/5 K/BB ratio. Uehara has always preferred to start, but it seems clear that his best chance of avoiding the DL lies in pitching out of the pen. If he’s content being a setup man, there will be plenty of interest in his services.
Prediction: Red Sox – two years, $6 million
Arthur Rhodes (Reds) – Like Rivera, Rhodes may well finish with the best ERA of his career at age 40. He’s at 1.42 through 44 1/3 innings. What makes it especially impressive is that he’s facing more right-handed hitters than he has of late, and he’s holding them to a .138 average. His success means he’ll probably get another two-year deal. The Reds should be able to afford to retain him at a modest raise from the $2 million he’s making now.
Prediction: Reds – two years, $5.5 million
Jose Contreras (Phillies) – Contreras started out his first season as a reliever in terrific fashion, amassing a 0.59 ERA and a 22/2 K/BB ratio in 15 1/3 innings through the end of May. The results haven’t been nearly as good since the Phillies started giving him more work, but he still has a fine 45/13 K/BB ratio for the season and he’s allowed just three homers in 40 innings. Since he probably does need to be babied a bit in order to make it through 162 games, he shouldn’t be a candidate for another multiyear deal at this stage of his career. He’d be a reasonable option to close for a non-contender, though.
Prediction: Diamondbacks – one year, $3 million
Chad Qualls (Rays) – An exceptionally reliable reliever five years running, Qualls picked a terrible time to have an off season. The 31-year-old right-hander has given up 45 runs in 44 2/3 innings for the Diamondbacks and Rays, though since six of them were unearned, his ERA stands at 7.86. His peripherals aren’t nearly so bad and he’s still getting plenty of grounders, so he hardly seems like a lost cause. However, it’s hard to imagine him getting a multiyear deal unless he suddenly turns things around in a big way.
Prediction: Rays – one year, $2.5 million
Other free agents: Jason Frasor (Blue Jays), Aaron Heilman (Diamondbacks), Will Ohman (Marlins), Dennys Reyes (Cardinals), Chad Durbin (Phillies), Guillermo Mota (Giants), Joe Beimel (Rockies), Chan Ho Park (Pirates), Jeff Weaver (Dodgers), Miguel Batista (Nationals), Russ Springer (Reds), Juan Cruz (FA), Jason Isringhausen (Reds), Scot Shields (Angels), Bobby Seay (Tigers), Randy Choate (Rays), Randy Flores (Rockies), Ron Mahay (Twins), Kelvim Escobar (Mets), Kiko Calero (Dodgers), Brian Moehler (Astros), Claudio Vargas (Dodgers), Jamey Wright (Mariners), Brendan Donnelly (FA), Mike MacDougal (Cardinals), Brett Tomko (Athletics), Elmer Dessens (Mets), Brad Thompson (FA), Jesus Colome (Dodgers), Bobby Howry (FA), Juan Rincon (Rockies), Orlando Hernandez (Nationals), Josh Fogg (FA), Mike Lincoln (Reds)
Frasor needs a strong finish to get into position to receive a two-year deal. The former closer has lowered his ERA from 5.01 on July 6 to 4.00 now. … Heilman has had a bounce-back season, amassing a 3.33 ERA in 54 innings. The Diamondbacks figure to make an attempt to re-sign him. … Ohman and Reyes would seem to be the remaining lefty specialists in line for two-year deals. Ohman has held left-handers to a .203 average this year. Reyes has disappointed, with left-handers hitting .281 off him, but he has the better track record overall.
Brian Fuentes (Angels) – $9 million club option (vests w/55 GF)
Trevor Hoffman (Brewers) – $7 million mutual option, $500,000 buyout
Billy Wagner (Braves) – $6.5 million club option, $250,000 buyout (vests w/50 GF)
Kyle Farnsworth (Braves) – $5.25 million club option, $250,000 buyout
David Riske (Brewers) – $4.75 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Octavio Dotel (Dodgers) – $4.5 million mutual option, $250,000 buyout
Kevin Gregg (Blue Jays) – $4.5 million or $8.75 million for 2011-12, $750,000 buyout
J.C. Romero (Phillies) – $4.5 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Dan Wheeler (Rays) – $4 million club option, $1 million buyout
Darren Oliver (Rangers) – $3.25 million club option, $500,000 buyout (vests w/59 G)
Matt Thornton (White Sox) – $3 million club option, $250,000 buyout
Trever Miller (Cardinals) – $2 million club option (vests w/45 games)
Mark Hendrickson (Orioles) – $1.2 million club option, $200,000 buyout
Fuentes has been on a major roll, allowing just one run in 14 innings since the beginning of July. It’s still doubtful that his option will be picked up and there’s no chance that it will vest, but he’s back looking like a viable closer. … Hoffman’s summer resurgence might be over, as he’s given up four runs in his last three appearances. He may choose to retire. … Wagner’s option will vest with two more games finished, but he still appears committed to calling it a career. … Thornton’s option is a lock to be picked up, and Wheeler looks like a good bet to stay with the Rays. Oliver and Miller are due to have theirs vest.
Trade candidates: Joakim Soria (Royals), Heath Bell (Padres), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Matt Capps (Twins), Joba Chamberlain (Yankees), Mike Gonzalez (Orioles), Leo Nunez (Marlins), David Aardsma (Mariners), Ryan Madson (Phillies), Brad Lidge (Phillies), Craig Breslow (Athletics), Michael Wuertz (Athletics), Brandon League (Mariners), Franklin Morales (Rockies), Takashi Saito (Braves), Tim Stauffer (Padres), Manny Delcarmen (Red Sox), Jared Burton (Reds), Alfredo Aceves (Yankees), Pat Neshek (Twins), Fernando Rodney (Angels), Jerry Blevins (Athletics), Craig Stammen (Nationals), Chris Ray (Giants), Ramon Ramirez (Giants), Scott Mathieson (Phillies), Mitch Stetter (Brewers), Carlos Villanueva (Brewers), Todd Coffey (Brewers), D.J. Carrasco (Diamondbacks), Collin Balester (Nationals), Joe Smith (Indians), Jensen Lewis (Indians), Jose Veras (Marlins), Jonathan Albaladejo (Yankees), Jesse Carlson (Blue Jays), Jeff Gray (Cubs)
Of the three guys topping the list, I think Soria is the most likely to stay and Papelbon is the best bet to go. Both Bell and Papelbon are eligible for free agency after next year, while Soria is under control through 2013. … Capps figures to see his salary jump from $3.5 million to $6 million or more, potentially making him one expensive setup man for Joe Nathan. The Twins will be pressed just to keep two from the group of Capps, Rauch, Guerrier and Crain. … If the Yankees fatigue of Chamberlain, there will likely be plenty of interest. He could step in right away as a closer for a team like the Diamondbacks.
Non-tender candidates: Bobby Jenks (White Sox), Matt Capps (Twins), George Sherrill (Dodgers), Takashi Saito (Braves), J.P. Howell (Rays), Hideki Okajima (Red Sox), Carlos Villanueva (Brewers), Todd Coffey (Brewers), Chad Gaudin (Yankees), Tony Pena (White Sox), Ramon Ramirez (Giants), Brian Tallet (Blue Jays), Lance Cormier (Rays), D.J. Carrasco (Diamondbacks), Micah Owings (Reds), Joel Peralta (Nationals), Joe Smith (Indians), Jensen Lewis (Indians), Rafael Perez (Indians), Santiago Casilla (Giants), Tyler Walker (Nationals), Javier Lopez (Giants), Robinson Tejeda (Royals), Angel Guzman (Cubs), Matt Albers (Orioles), Nelson Figueroa (Astros), Tim Byrdak (Astros), Chris Sampson (Astros), Brad Thomas (Tigers), Zach Miner (Tigers), Clay Condrey (Twins), Doug Slaten (Nationals), Dustin Nippert (Rangers), Jose Veras (Marlins), Sean Green (Mets), Raul Valdes (Mets), Blaine Boyer (Diamondbacks), Sean Gallagher (Pirates), Jeremy Accardo (Blue Jays), Jesse Carlson (Blue Jays), Scott Atchison (Red Sox), Jeff Fulchino (Astros), Garrett Olson (Mariners), Sean White (Mariners), Brian Stokes (Angels), Boof Bonser (Athletics), Josh Kinney (Cardinals), Taylor Tankersley (Marlins), Chris Resop (Pirates), Leo Rosales (Diamondbacks), Randy Williams (White Sox), Matt Palmer (Angels), Warner Madrigal (Rangers), Brian Burres (Pirates), Marco Estrada (Brewers), Dale Thayer (Rays), Justin Germano (Indians), Scott Proctor (Braves), Chris Jakubauskas (Pirates), Brian Sweeney (Mariners), Chris Seddon (Mariners), Enrique Gonzalez (Tigers), Dick Hayhurst (Blue Jays), Philip Humber (Royals), Mike Ekstrom (Rays), Cristhian Martinez (Braves), Gustavo Chacin (Astros), Freddy Dolsi (White Sox), Armando Gabino (Orioles), Wilfredo Ledezma (Pirates)
Jenks, who is making $7.5 million this year, is almost surely a goner. He’ll probably take a paycut and a one-year deal to close elsewhere. … The Rays should keep Howell if he’s willing to take the same $1.8 million he made this year. He’s missed the entire season following shoulder surgery. … Saito and Okajima still don’t qualify as free agents because they don’t have six years of service time in. Saito has been just fine for the Braves, posting a 3.00 ERA in 45 innings. Still, Atlanta probably won’t want to go to arbitration with him and give him a significant raise from the $3.2 million he’s making now. Okajima has struggled mightily, and he’ll likely have to take a cut in order to remain with the Red Sox.
Pre-2012 free agents: Jonathan Broxton (Dodgers), Heath Bell (Padres), Jonathan Papelbon (Red Sox), Francisco Rodriguez (Mets)*, Jose Valverde (Tigers)*, Matt Capps (Twins), Joe Nathan (Twins)*, Francisco Cordero (Reds)*, Matt Thornton (White Sox), Bobby Jenks (White Sox), Brad Lidge (Phillies)*, Ryan Madson (Phillies), Mike Gonzalez (Orioles), Michael Wuertz (Athletics)*, Fernando Rodney (Angels), Ryan Franklin (Cardinals), Jeremy Affeldt (Giants)*, Rafael Betancourt (Rockies), Joel Zumaya (Tigers), Damaso Marte (Yankees)*, LaTroy Hawkins (Brewers), George Sherrill (Dodgers), Takashi Saito (Braves), John Grabow (Cubs), Chris Ray (Giants), Scott Linebrink (White Sox), Danys Baez (Phillies), Matt Belisle (Rockies), Shawn Camp (Blue Jays), Trever Miller (Cardinals), Todd Coffey (Brewers), Brian Tallet (Blue Jays), Chad Gaudin (Yankees), Tony Pena (White Sox), Javier Lopez (Giants), Tim Byrdak (Astros), Tyler Walker (Nationals), Ryota Igarashi (Mets), Clay Condrey (Twins)
2012 options: Rodriguez – $17.5 million ($3.5 million buyout, vests w/55 GF), Valverde – $9 million, Nathan – $12.5 million ($2 million), Cordero – $12 million ($1 million buyout), Lidge – $12.5 million ($1.5 million buyout), Wuertz – $3.25 million ($250,000 buyout), Affeldt – $5 million ($500,000 buyout), Marte – $4 million ($250,000 buyout)
Pre-2013 free agents: Joakim Soria (Royals)*, Carlos Marmol (Cubs), Huston Street (Rockies)*, Matt Lindstrom (Astros), David Aardsma (Mariners), Sean Marshall (Cubs), Hong-Chih Kuo (Dodgers), Leo Nunez (Marlins), Manny Corpas (Rockies)*, Brandon League (Mariners), Mike Adams (Padres), Peter Moylan (Braves), J.P. Howell (Rays), Sean Burnett (Nationals), Brandon Lyon (Astros), Taylor Buchholz (Rockies), Casey Janssen (Blue Jays), Mark Lowe (Rangers), Hideki Okajima (Red Sox), Carlos Villanueva (Brewers), Ramon Ramirez (Giants), D.J. Carrasco (Diamondbacks), Robinson Tejeda (Royals), Jeremy Accardo (Blue Jays), Angel Guzman (Cubs), Blaine Boyer (Diamondbacks), Sean Green (Mets)
2013 options: Soria – $8 million ($750,000 buyout), Street – $9 million mutual option ($500,000 buyout), Corpas – $8 million ($500,000 buyout)
Listed options are club options unless otherwise noted.

Mets win 8th straight, Conforto and Flores HR to beat Giants

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NEW YORK — Michael Conforto and the bats are booming. Jacob deGrom and the pitchers are peaking. And the defense is making the key plays.

A year after the New York Mets stamped themselves as serious contenders with a big winning streak in April, they’re rolling again.

“There’s not much that we’re not doing,” manager Terry Collins said.

Conforto and Wilmer Flores homered and the Mets won their eighth in a row, building an early lead for deGrom and holding off the San Francisco Giants 6-5 Saturday.

“It just seems relentless,” Conforto said.

At 15-7, the defending NL champions have won 11 of 12. They could be poised for an even more impressive run – next week, they play seven games against last-place Atlanta and San Diego.

The crowd of 44,466 was the largest for a regular-season game at Citi Field since the park opened in 2009, with a lot of fans attracted by the Noah Syndergaard Garden Gnome giveaway.

The Mets almost gave away the game, too.

Ahead 6-3 in the eighth inning, they walked a pair of batters and let the Giants load the bases with no outs. Hunter Pence‘s bid for a go-ahead grand slam was caught just in front of the center-field wall for a sacrifice fly.

Brandon Crawford followed with another sacrifice fly, a liner that right fielder Curtis Granderson jumped to backhand on the warning track.

“Two long popups,” Collins kidded.

Jeurys Familia took over in the ninth and closed for his eighth save in as many chances.

“That’s a tough one for the guys, because they put up quite an effort there to get back in it and try to win that ballgame,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “Two balls to just miss like that, that’s a tough one for them.”

Conforto tied a Mets record by hitting a double in his sixth straight game. He also singled and drove in three runs. In his first full season, the 23-year-old outfielder who homered twice in a World Series game last October has comfortably settled into the No. 3 spot in a potent lineup and is batting .365.

“Really had no nerves about it,” he said, adding, “Getting the pitches I know I can hit and not missing them.”

Neil Walker capped a productive first month for his new team with a two-run single.

DeGrom (3-0) overcame his first four walks of the season, pitching two-hit ball for six innings and leaving with a 1.02 ERA. All three runs against him were unearned and came after a throwing error by Flores, who played third base to give David Wright a day off.

New York’s defense also helped deGrom. Pence fisted a bases-loaded, two-run single with two outs in the third, but first baseman Lucas Duda took the accurate relay from Granderson and threw out Brandon Belt trying to reach third.

After setting a club mark by scoring 12 runs in the third inning Friday night, the Mets quickly struck against Matt Cain (0-3).

Walker’s two-out single in the first made it 2-0. Conforto launched a two-run double off the top of the left-field wall in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Overall, the Mets have outscored opponents 50-21 during their winning string.

“It’s nice pitching with a lead,” deGrom said. “You can go right after guys.”

Cain has gone a career-worst 12 starts without a win, dating to his last victory July 22. Slowed by injuries and inconsistency in recent years, the three-time All-Star who once pitched a perfect game is saddled with a 7.00 ERA this season.

Conforto hit his fourth homer in the fifth. Flores connected the next inning for his first of the year. The Mets have 31 home runs in their last 14 games.


Conforto tied Joe Christopher’s team mark in 1964 with doubles in six straight games. Conforto has reached safely in 17 straight. … Yoenis Cespedes‘ club-record string of nine games in a row with an extra-base hit ended.


Giants: 2B Joe Panik was out of the lineup a day after tweaking his groin.

Mets: Wright and C Kevin Plawecki got to sit for a day. C Rene Rivera, who started 87 games for the Rays last year, made his Mets debut. He was hit by a pitch in the back his first time up.


A prime pitching matchup on deck – if the weather holds. Steady rain is in the forecast Sunday and well could dampen the duel between Giants ace Madison Bumgarner (2-2, 3.64 ERA) and Syndergaard (2-0, 1.69). Bumgarner has won all three of his starts at Citi Field with an 0.78 ERA. Syndergaard has struck out 38 this season, matching Pedro Martinez for the most by a Mets pitcher in the first four starts of a season.

Zimmermann goes 5-0, Upton homers as Tigers top Twins 4-1

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MINNEAPOLIS — Jordan Zimmermann hasn’t required much run support this year. Justin Upton gave him all he needed in the first inning Saturday.

Zimmermann won his fifth straight start to begin his first season with Detroit, and Upton hit a three-run homer for the Tigers in their 4-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

“Give him a three-run lead, we’re pretty confident he can work with that,” said Upton, whose second homer of the year reached the second deck in left-center. “If we can fight and get on the board early, and let our guys work, we’ll be all right.”

Zimmermann (5-0) gave up one run and six hits with no walks and seven strikeouts over seven innings. His ERA actually rose to 0.55 as he became the first Tigers pitcher to win five games in April since Frank Tanana in 1988, according to STATS.

Upton and Zimmermann both signed as free agents with Detroit for more than $100 million this past offseason. Zimmermann knew he would be joining a team with a high-octane offense, though he hasn’t relied on the Tigers’ bats much yet.

“This is probably the best lineup I’ve ever seen,” Zimmermann said. “They’re going to score runs. It’s just a matter of when and what inning. For me, they’ve been scoring early and allowing me to settle in and just throw strikes.”

Victor Martinez doubled twice for the Tigers, who have won five of six. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in seven opportunities.

Eduardo Escobar had three singles for the Twins, who lost their third straight and fell to 7-17 overall.

Tyler Duffey (0-1) gave up just one earned run in 6 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking none. But one mistake in the first marred an otherwise solid performance.

With two on and two outs, Duffey tried to get ahead in the count with a first-pitch fastball. But the pitch caught too much of the plate and Upton drove it an estimated 417 feet for his second homer with Detroit.

“It’s easy to look back and say I should have gotten out of that. I know I was more than capable of doing it,” Duffey said. “That mistake is a lot larger when you’ve got a guy like Zimmermann throwing against you.”

Zimmermann cruised through the first three innings, but Byung Ho Park homered in the fourth to break up the shutout. Park lined a 1-2 pitch into the bullpen in left-center, his team-leading sixth homer of the year.

It was the first home run allowed by Zimmermann in 29 2/3 innings this season.

After that, each time the Twins threatened, Zimmermann had an answer. John Ryan Murphy reached second on an error by right fielder J.D. Martinez with one out in the fifth before Zimmermann struck out Danny Santana and Brian Dozier to preserve the two-run cushion.

Minnesota got its leadoff man on in the seventh, but Zimmermann promptly induced a double-play grounder from Eddie Rosario.


Zimmermann might have kept the Twins off the board entirely if he’d just listened to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who didn’t want to throw Park the slider he hit into the bullpen.

“That was really my only mistake all game. I tried going front door with it, and obviously that wasn’t the right pitch. I’m sure Salty will say the same thing. He didn’t really want to throw it and I did, so that was my fault,” Zimmermann said. “It didn’t work out, but solo home runs aren’t going to kill you, so it’s all good.”


Tigers: C James McCann (sprained ankle) caught nine innings for Triple-A Toledo on Friday, but manager Brad Ausmus said McCann will continue his rehab assignment through the weekend. McCann was expected to catch nine more innings Saturday and five innings on Sunday before rejoining the Tigers for their three-game series in Cleveland that begins Tuesday.

Twins: 3B Trevor Plouffe (strained intercostal muscle) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Fort Myers on Saturday. Plouffe has been on the DL since April 19. Barring any setbacks, he is expected to join the Twins in Houston on Tuesday.


Tigers: RHP Mike Pelfrey (0-4, 4.64 ERA) faces his former team in Sunday’s series finale. Pelfrey spent the past three seasons in Minnesota. He pitched a season-high 6 2/3 innings in his most recent start, a 5-1 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday.

Twins: RHP Ricky Nolasco (1-0, 3.25) has been the team’s most effective starter this season. He’s averaged just shy of seven innings in his four starts and is second in the AL in strikeout-to-walk ratio with 24 strikeouts against three walks.

Rockies’ Story ties rookie mark with 10th HR in April

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PHOENIX (AP) Trevor Story is undoubtedly the story of the Colorado Rockies’ first month of the season.

The shortstop tied a major league rookie record with his 10th home run in April, a two-run shot that helped the Rockies cruise to a 9-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night. In hitting his 10th home run in 21 games, Story tied George Scott in 1966 as the fastest player in major league history to reach that home run total.

Story tied Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, who hit 10 in April 2014, for the rookie mark. Teammate Nolan Arenado, who also homered, is tied with Story for the major league lead in home runs.

Story took Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray (1-1) deep in the fifth inning.

“Maybe when it’s all said and done it will be something cool to look back on, but right now I’m just worried about winning games,” Story said.

Arenado, Ryan Raburn and Nick Hundley hit solo home runs, Arenado’s blast immediately following Story’s in the fifth to knock Ray out of the game.

Hundley added a two-run double in the eighth after Gerardo Parra‘s RBI double.

Tyler Chatwood (3-2) held the Diamondbacks scoreless on five hits for 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and three walks.

The Rockies won for the third time in four meetings against Arizona in Phoenix, and have hit 14 home runs in those four games at Chase Field this season. Story hit four in the season-opening series.

“I feel like it’s always good weather here. We play spring training here, so it’s a familiar place,” Story said. “I grew up playing in the heat, so yeah, I guess you could say I feel comfortable here.”

Ray had not given up a home run in his previous four starts. The Rockies overtook the Diamondbacks for most home runs in the majors with 37 to Arizona’s 36.

“They obviously like swinging the bat in this ballpark,” Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale said. “It’s very obvious that that’s what it is. If you don’t locate your pitches, they’re going to hit them. That’s what happens with confident hitters.”

Raburn led off the fourth with a line drive into the seats in left field. One out later, Hundley homered to left.

“Great player. He’s got a lot of tools and he’s been pretty even-keel,” Raburn said of Story. “Right now he’s getting pitches to hit and he ain’t missing it.”

The Rockies took control in the fifth when Charlie Blackmon led off with a single. Story and Arenado followed with their home runs, and Ray’s night ended after giving up five runs and seven hits. He struck out five and walked two.

“This place has been tough on us the last few years,” manager Walt Weiss said. “Especially last year. It’s good to see us swing the bats and win games, especially on the road where we’ve had some demons in the past.”


The Diamondbacks claimed LHP Edwin Escobar off waivers from the Boston Red Sox on Friday, and sent Escobar to Triple-A Reno. Pitcher Matt Buschmann was designated for assignment. Escobar, 24, was a top prospect for the San Francisco Giants before being traded to Boston in 2014. Buschmann made three appearances for the Diamondbacks this season.


Rockies: Blackmon (turf toe) was activated from the 15-day DL and started in center field as the leadoff hitter. The Rockies optioned OF Brandon Barnes to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Blackmon. “Unfortunately, it’s a numbers crunch at this point in the construction of our roster, but he’ll be back,” Weiss said of Barnes. … RHP Jason Motte (sore shoulder) threw a bullpen session Friday and is “moving full steam ahead,” Weiss said. … Hundley got some eye drops administered during the fourth inning, coming out from behind the plate and jogging over to the dugout for help from a trainer. … Raburn fouled a pitch thrown high and tight off the bottom of the bat near his hands, and was checked by a trainer when he shook his hands in pain afterward. He was later hit by a pitch. “Just got a little beat up tonight but it’s part of it,” Raburn said.

Diamondbacks: RHP Josh Collmenter, on the 15-day DL, will pitch three innings at Class-A Visalia on Monday as he comes back from shoulder inflammation.


Rockies: LHP Chris Rusin makes his first start of the season. He’s appeared four times in relief and has a scoreless streak of 9 2/3 innings. He’s 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in three starts against Arizona, all at Chase Field.

Diamondbacks: RHP Zack Greinke (2-2, 6.16 ERA) makes his sixth start of the season. He faced the Rockies on opening day and was tagged for seven runs and nine hits in four innings. He gave up seven runs in his most recent outing, Monday against the Cardinals, but got the win.

Cespedes has 6 RBIs during Mets’ record 12-run inning vs SF

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NEW YORK — Yoenis Cespedes and the New York Mets broke loose for a team-record 12 runs in the third inning Friday night, rolling to their seventh straight victory with a 13-1 blowout of the San Francisco Giants.

Cespedes set a club mark with six RBIs in the inning, connecting for a two-run single off starter Jake Peavy (1-2) and a grand slam off reliever Mike Broadway that capped the outburst.

The early barrage made it an easy night for Steven Matz (3-1) in the opener of a three-game series between the last two NL champions. The left-hander tossed six shutout innings to win his third consecutive start.

Michael Conforto had an RBI double and a run-scoring single in the Mets third, which lasted 39 minutes, 47 seconds. He and Cespedes were two of the four players who scored twice. Asdrubal Cabrera greeted Broadway with a two-run double.