Pirates and Russell Martin agree to two-year, $17 million contract

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UPDATE: ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Yankees never made Martin an offer. In fact, they haven’t made an offer to any position players so far this offseason.

8:44 PM: David Waldstein of the New York Times reports that Martin agreed to a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pirates. You could understand if the Yankees balked at a three-year deal at $8.5 million AAV, but it’s surprising that they weren’t willing to match the Pirates for two years.

8:29 PM: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Pirates have reached an agreement with catcher Russell Martin, pending a physical. No word yet on the exact terms, but there was a report earlier this week that they could be willing to give him a three-year deal.

The Yankees were said to be reluctant to go beyond two years for Martin, who batted .211/.311/.403 with 21 homers, 53 RBI and a .713 OPS this past season. The Mariners and Rangers were also mentioned as potential suitors, but it appears the Pirates had the best offer on the table.

Pirates’ catchers combined to hit .218/.300/.392 with 23 home runs and a .692 OPS this past season, most of that from Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry. With his pop and patience, Martin should be able to equal or exceed that level of production. He also figures to be a nice upgrade from a group who threw out a major-league worst eight percent of attempted basestealers in 2012. Martin checked in at 24 percent, which was just around the league average. He also has the reputation as a solid receiver.

If the season started today, the Yankees would have to rely on a combination of Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart behind the plate. Of course, it’s very unlikely they’ll end up going that route. The Yankees haven’t been involved for Mike Napoli, but A.J. Pierzynski has been mentioned as a possible fallback to Martin.

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.