Lester, Kershaw and Sanchez on pace to join exclusive club

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In the 50 years since the expansion era began in 1961, just 17 different left-handers have struck out over a batter an inning while qualifying for the ERA title. This year, three of them are on pace to do it for a second year in a row.
If things hold up, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester and Jonathan Sanchez will join Randy Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Sam McDowell, Johan Santana and Sid Fernandez as the only southpaws to have multiple seasons with at least 9 strikeouts per nine innings.
Here’s the list through 2009:
1. Randy Johnson – 12
2. Sandy Koufax – 4
2. Sam McDowell – 4
2. Johan Santana – 4
5. Sid Fernandez – 3
6. Rick Ankiel – 1
6. Erik Bedard – 1
6. Jorge De La Rosa – 1
6. Cole Hamels – 1
6. Scott Kazmir – 1
6. Clayton Kershaw – 1*
6. Jon Lester – 1*
6. Mark Langston – 1
6. Oliver Perez – 1
6. Jonathan Sanchez – 1*
6. Frank Tanana – 1
6. Bob Veale – 1
Lester is essentially a lock. With 208 strikeouts in 190 innings, he’s on pace to lead the majors in strikeouts per nine innings this year (if only because Brandon Morrow was shut down and won’t qualify for the ERA title). Kershaw has fanned 201 in 192 1/3 innings. Sanchez has struck out 176 in 169 2/3 innings.
It also looks like there will be a newcomer to the list. Francisco Liriano has fanned 189 in 178 1/3 innings, so he’s set to go over 9 K/IP for the first time.

Braves ink Blaine Boyer to a minor league deal

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 2:  Relief pitcher Blaine Boyer #48 of the Milwaukee Brewers delivers to home plate during the seventh inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on October 2, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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The Braves have signed reliever Blaine Boyer to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports. Bowman adds that the right-hander has a “good chance” to make the Braves’ bullpen out of spring training.

Boyer, 35, spent the past season with the Brewers, finishing with a 3.95 ERA and a 26/17 K/BB ratio in 66 innings.

Boyer, of course, started his professional baseball career with the Braves as they selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. Since the Braves traded him in 2009, Boyer has pitched for the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Mets, Padres, and Twins along with the Brewers.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.