Johnny Cueto shuts out Giants, takes over as MLB ERA leader

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Johnny Cueto pitched a three-hitter for his second career shutout Sunday against the Giants and finally accrued enough innings to put himself into the ERA standings, where he now ranks first in the majors at 1.72.

Cueto overtook Jered Weaver for the ERA lead.  Weaver entered the day at 1.79, but he gave up three runs in a loss to the Tigers, leaving him at 1.88 for the season.

Because of a strained triceps muscle suffered in spring training, Cueto didn’t make his season debut until May 8.  With today’s performance, he’s now made 16 starts and he hasn’t given up more than three earned runs in any of them.

Cueto, though, probably hasn’t been quite as good as his ERA suggests.  In his July 26 start against the Mets, he allowed six unearned runs in five innings.  For the season, 11 of the 32 runs he’s allowed have been unearned.  Weaver, in comparison, has allowed just one unearned run in 168 innings this season.

To qualify for the ERA title, a pitcher must throw one inning for every game his team has played.  Cueto is now at 109 2/3 innings, while the Reds have played 108 games.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.