There are very few franchises out there whose decisions have been influences by payroll constraints and, in some cases, unadulterated parsimony than the Florida Marlins. Every year the story is the same: incremental improvements, hope the kids get better and then, at some point, the departure of someone who has the audacity to make more than a couple million bucks a year.
But, as Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post reports, the fish may be swimming to a different … er, wait. You don’t “swim” to a “tune.” That’s just dumb. Oh well, read this. I’ll be back with you in a moment:
This winter will be different. With a new $515-million ballpark set to open in April, the Marlins will raise their payroll to at least $85 million, a franchise record … “The payroll is going up. We want to make a very good showing in the new ballpark and add excitement. There’s a lot of things we’d like to do this winter.’
The 2011 payroll was $57 million, so if the team is to be believed, they’re going to spend a minimum of $28 million more in 2012. That pretty much puts any single move on the table from Albert Pujols on down.
No, to be sure, team president Larry Beinfest says the priority is pitching because it’s always pitching. And, as we’ve seen over and over again, a number of smaller, positive moves are usually more effective than making some big free agent splash, so don’t go thinking that the Marlins who — Jeff Loria at the top of the org chart notwithstanding — are run by some fairly smart people on the baseball side will just throw money at people all willy-nilly. But something different appears to be afoot in Miami. The actual opening of the purse strings.
At least as long as this isn’t all bluster as the Marlins try to sell season tickets to their new ballpark, later say “we just didn’t see what we needed on the market,” and go into 2012 with another $60 million payroll.
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.