No strikeouts, no problem for Aaron Cook

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Despite going without a strikeout for the fourth time in five starts as a member of the Red Sox, Aaron Cook limited the White Sox to just an unearned run over seven innings in Boston’s 5-1 victory Monday.

The sinkerballing Cook has recorded a mere two strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings this season, both of which came in his two-hit shutout of the Mariners on June 29. He’s the only pitcher this year to go back-to-back starts without a strikeout, and he’s now done it twice. Despite that, he’s 2-2 with a 3.34 ERA. He has a 1.67 ERA in his four starts since coming off the DL last month.

Cook has certainly never been a strikeout pitcher, but he’s in some rare air indeed right now, averaging 0.61 strikeouts per nine innings. Min. 80 innings, here are the tiniest strikeout rates since 2000:

2.10 – Kirk Rueter (2005 Giants) – 25 K in 107.1 IP
2.13 – Nate Cornejo (2003 Tigers) – 46 K in 194.2 IP
2.51 – Kirk Rueter (2003 Giants) – 41 K in 147 IP
2.59 – Aaron Cook (2005 Rockies) – 24  K in 83.1 IP
2.65 – Kirk Rueter (2004 Giants) – 56 K in 190.1 IP
2.98 – Jimmy Gobble (2004 Royals) – 49 K in 148 IP
2.99 – Kirk Saarloos (2005 Athletics) – 53 K in 159.2 IP
3.01 – Jimmy Anderson (2002 Pirates) – 47 K in 140.2 IP
3.12 – Aaron Cook (2003 Rockies) – 43 K in 124 IP
3.14 – Chien-Ming Wang (2006 Yankees) – 76 K in 218 IP

Toronto’s Henderson Alvarez was in ninth place at 3.02 before striking out six in six innings tonight and  knocking himself out of the top 10.  Cook could join Rueter with three spots here if this keeps up.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.