Mike Sweeney retires

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Mike Sweeney is announcing his retirement today.  Given that this word is coming via Royals writers and the announcement is happening in Surprise, Arizona, he is apparently retiring as a Royal, if not in a formal contractual sense, then at least in a cosmic sense.

Which is appropriate, as Mike Sweeney was the Kansas City Royals for many, many years. He played thirteen of his sixteen major league seasons in Kansas City, excelling in a Royals uniform. His career line in Kansas City was .299/.369/.492.  He played 1,282 games and smacked 197 homers there.

He was also one of the few bright spots during his tenure on that team. He became a full time player in 1999. Between then and 2007 the Royals lost 100 games four times, 97 games twice and 93 games once. The only bright spot from a team perspective came in 2003, when the Royals surprised everyone, holding on to first place in the AL Central for a long, long time before fading but, ultimately, finishing above .500.  It was that year, however, when Sweeney began to suffer an increasing number of injuries, playing in only 108 games.  After 2005 he never played in 100 games again.

Upon leaving the Royals, Sweeney bounced from Oakland to Seattle to Philadelphia where he played some first base, did some designated hitting and served as a pinch hitter/hugging/inspirational guy.  That inspirational part was always a bit complicated, however, as it is with most players.  When things were going well — like they did during his time with the Phillies — Mike Sweeney was a living, breathing, hugging pep-squad.  When things turned sour — like his time in Seattle last year — things got ugly.

The ups and downs of life in a major league clubhouse aside, Sweeney has long been a good baseball citizen. He’s extremely active in the community. He’s a man of faith and family. With the exception of Jeff Weaver, he’s generally been a well-liked fellow.

Nice career. Too bad he never got to be part of a winning team when he was in his prime. Good travels, Mike Sweeney.

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.