Report: Red Sox and Rays interested in reliever Luis Ayala

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Luis Ayala had to settle for a spring training invite last offseason, but he might find a guaranteed major league contract this winter.

According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, the Red Sox and Rays are among the teams who have “checked in” on the veteran right-hander.

Ayala, who turns 34 in January, made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster this season and posted a 2.09 ERA and 39/20 K/BB ratio over 56 innings. He also induced ground balls 50 percent of the time, his highest percentage since 2004 as a member of the Expos.

Ayala didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2010 and had an ugly 5.68 ERA from 2008-09 between the Nationals, Mets, Twins and Marlins. His peripherals weren’t overly impressive this season and his strand rate was a little on the fortunate side, so some regression could be in order for 2012.

Noah Syndergaard scratched with a “tired arm”

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Mets manager Terry Collins says that he has scratched Noah Syndergaard, who was supposed to start this afternoon’s game against the Braves. In his place will go Matt Harvey.

Syndergaard, Collins says, has “tired arm.” But also says he has some discomfort in his right biceps. He will have an MRI, but Syndergaard says it’s not serious and that he could pitch as soon as Sunday. Collins says this is an abundance-of-caution type thing, saying “we can’t take a chance on this guy.” Which is true.

The Mets ace is 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings. He has walked no one this year. Not a soul.

James Paxton has a fantastic new nickname

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James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.

And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:

“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”

“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.

“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.