Behind James Shields, Rays set AL record for strikeouts

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Rays right-hander James Shields reached 200 strikeouts for the second straight season Friday in a 12-1 win over the Blue Jays. Along the way, he recorded the team’s 1,267 strikeout, breaking the American League record set by the 2001 Yankees.

J.P. Arencibia was the victim. It was Shields’ third strikeout of the night on his way to finishing the game with nine.

The Rays ended the game with 1,275 strikeouts, leaving them 129 shy of the major league record of 1,404 strikeouts set by the 2003 Cubs. That’s out of reach with just 11 games to go. Still, 1,350 or strikeouts for an AL team could well be considered more impressive that 1,404 from an NL team that got to face pitchers most of the year.

Shields in the Rays’ leader at 202 strikeouts for the season, with David Price not too far behind at 188. Rookie Matt Moore has 169 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings. The bullpen also deserves plenty of credit. Wade Davis has 80 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings, Joel Peralta has 77 in 61 1/3 innings and Jake McGee has 66 in 50 1/3 innings. Fernando Rodney’s 68 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings seem almost modest in comparison.

Martin Maldonado and Willson Contreras say they’re willing to pay fines rather than follow new mound visit rule

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On Monday, Major League Baseball announced some changes aimed at improving the game’s pace of play, something that has been a pet cause for commissioner Rob Manfred. Among the changes was a limit on mound visits whether from managers and coaches, the catcher, or other defenders. Each team will have six non-pitching change mound visits per game and one additional visit each inning in extra innings. Craig wrote more in depth on the changes here if you happened to miss it.

Angels catcher Martin Maldonado says he is going to do what’s necessary to stay on the same page with his pitchers. Via Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Maldonado said, “If the game is on the line, I’m going to go out there. If we’re at six [visits], and it’s going to be the seventh, I’m going to go out there, even if I have to pay a fine. I’m there for the pitchers.”

Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said as much on Tuesday. Per Josh Frydman of WGN News, Contreras said, “What about if you have a tight game and you have to go out there? They can’t say anything about that, that’s my team and we just care about wins. If they’re going to fine me about number seven mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”

Exhibition games haven’t even started yet, but two notable backstops — the lesser-known Maldonado won a Gold Glove last year — are clearly not happy with the rule change. As Craig alluded to in his article yesterday, arguments between catchers and umpires (and, subsequently, managers and umpires) are probably going to become more frequent, which would likely end up nullifying any pace of play improvements.