Once the dust settled at 4 p.m. ET yesterday, the natural assumption was that the Padres would let Heath Bell walk via free agency and take the two draft picks if they are unable to work out a team-friendly contract extension. Well, it may not work out that way.
Bell told Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune earlier today that he would accept arbitration if he is unable to come to an agreement with the Padres.
“If I don’t have a multi-year deal and they offer me arbitration, I will accept arbitration,” Bell said. “My wife (Nicole) and I talked about all the scenarios last night.
“There is no downside to me accepting arbitration and the family staying in San Diego for at least another year. My kids love it here. My family is happy here. And I’m in a position where I can make some decisions right now.
“The ball is in my court. I want to stay in San Diego. And I want to win here.”
Bell, who turns 34 in September, is making $7.5 million this season and would presumably fetch eight figures through the arbitration process. He told Center that he is looking for a three-year contract in the range of $27 million while the Padres are only willing to offer two years with an option for a third year.
While this sounds like a tricky scenario for a team that likely won’t be on the brink of contention any time soon, Padres owner Jeff Moorad told XX1090 in San Diego (via Dan Hayes of the North County Times) that they actually wouldn’t mind if Bell accepts arbitration.
“In some ways [it’s] even preferable from our point of view … We certainly don’t mind going to year-to-year, though we are willing to guarantee a couple of years with him.”
Bell has a 2.28 ERA, 30 saves in 32 chances and a 33/16 K/BB ratio over 43 1/3 innings this season. He projects to be a Type A free agent this winter.
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.
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.