Orioles sign veteran reliever Luis Ayala for $925,000

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UPDATE: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that Ayala gets a one-year, $925,000 deal with a team option for 2013.

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Last offseason Luis Ayala could manage only a minor-league deal with the Yankees, but after throwing 56 innings with a 2.09 ERA he had multiple suitors this offseason and Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that he’s agreed to sign a big-league contract with the Orioles.

Prior to last season Ayala hadn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 since 2007 and he didn’t pitch in the majors at all in 2010, but the 33-year-old right-hander posted the highest strikeout rate of his career at 6.3 per nine innings and did a nice job keeping the ball on the ground for New York.

Based on his secondary numbers Ayala is a prime candidate to regress significantly in 2012, but even if his luck dries up he’s capable of being a useful middle reliever. His addition also seemingly makes it less likely that the Orioles will reacquire Koji Uehara from the Rangers.

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.