Josh Willingham deal likely to start chain reaction

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The outfield market could start unfolding quickly now with the news that Josh Willingham is about to become a Minnesota Twin.

– Michael Cuddyer, who had been the Twins’ preference, appears likely to join the Rockies. Minnesota offered their veteran the three-year deal he desired, but it seems that last season’s experience was bad enough to give him doubts about re-signing. Cuddyer will probably put up better numbers than Willingham next year, but that will be all about the ballparks: Minnesota is getting the superior hitter out of this deal.

– The Rockies are also in on Carlos Beltran, but they’ve been much more aggressive in their pursuit of Cuddyer. Beltran has slipped through the cracks, even though he offers a much better glove than either Cuddyer or Willingham and greater offensive upside as well. Of course, the issue there is his history of knee problems. He’ll still probably get a higher annual salary than Cuddyer or Willingham, but he may have to choose between a one-year deal with a contender or a two-year deal from a lesser team. St. Louis, Boston, Texas and Detroit are candidates to get involved.

– Only once that trio is off the board will names like Cody Ross and Ryan Ludwick start to become attractive. The A’s and Mariners will rifle through the bargain bin looking for a starting outfielder. The Red Sox might as well.

– Of course, there is still one prize out there in the form of Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes. Complicating things there is that he’s not yet officially a free agent and eligible to sign. Detroit and Miami look like the early favorites to land the 26-year-old, who would slide right into a major league outfield in either center or right.

Albert Pujols hit his 597th career home run

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Angels DH Albert Pujols smacked his 597th career home run, a two-run shot in the top of the first inning during Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Rays. The blast was off of Erasmo Ramirez and marked No. 6 on the season for the future Hall of Famer.

Pujols finished 1-for-3 with the homer and a walk. After Wednesday’s game, he’s hitting a lackluster .244/.296/.378 with 34 RBI and 14 runs scored in 186 trips to the plate.

Pujols currently ranks ninth on baseball’s all-time leaderboard and is three shy of joining the 600-homer club. He’s currently 13 home runs away from tying Sammy Sosa for eighth all-time.

Chris Sale’s streak of starts with at least 10 strikeouts ends

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale entered Wednesday’s outing against the Rangers with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts, tying a record he already shared with Pedro Martinez. He failed do break the record, racking up only six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. Fortunately, the Red Sox scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to put him in line for the win. Sale gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk.

After Wednesday’s outing, Sale is sitting on a 2.34 ERA with a 101/14 K/BB ratio in 73 innings. So far, so good for the Red Sox, who acquired Sale from the White Sox in December.

Sale previously racked up 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive games between May 23 and June 30 in 2015 with the White Sox. Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat for the Red Sox between August 19 and September 27 in 1999.