Hunter Pence is going to be back with the Giants in 2013

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Pop quiz, hot shot!

You traded for an outfielder in the middle of the year who often looked helpless at the plate. He was a nice guy and had character, though, serving as a great cheerleader. And hey, you won the friggin’ World Series, so it’s not like his presence in the lineup every day harmed you that much. He’s arbitration eligible now is gonna make $13-15 million next season.  What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean can guarantee that outfielder Hunter Pence will be back with the team in 2013 … “Pence is going to be coming back,” Sabean said at the general managers’ meetings. “We think there are some things he can do to fix what went wrong this year. We like the player. We made a big trade to get him, and he’s going to be a Giant next year.”

The sub-par-for-him production in 2012 is kind of scary for a player who will make that kind of money, but I can see the argument for keeping him.

It’s a devil-you-know situation and a play for upside.  Sure, you may end wildly overpaying for a guy who has no business playing a corner for a contender, but what’s the alternative? What replacement is available out there at the moment who you know can fill that role?

Josh Hamilton is not coming to San Francisco. I suppose Torii Hunter and Nick Swisher are possibilities, but you’re talking multi-year deals that will likely be higher than their worth given the dearth of talent on the free agent market this year. And really, the Giants have not played in that sandbox too much in recent years. Beyond that you have, who, Ryan Ludwick? Melky? Ichiro?

The Giants are betting that Pence can snap back to 2011 form. If he does that, or comes close to it, he’ll come close to justifying that arbitration number (or whatever close to it the sides can negotiate). If not, it’s just a one-year gamble, not a multi-year gamble. I can’t say I blame them for doing it.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.