MLB denies that it’s specifically targeting Braun, but the denial rings hollow

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Yesterday Bob Nightengale reported that Major League Baseball was targeting Ryan Braun in the Biogenesis investigation, to the point where it was willing to grant other players immunity — and sacrifice most of its drug enforcement principles — in order to take Braun down.

Later in the day, however, MLB’s Rob Manfred denied that. From Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journel-Sentinel:

Major League Baseball executive vice president Rob Manfred denied that MLB has targeted Milwaukee Brewers leftfielder Ryan Braun specifically in its investigation of the Biogenesis clinic in Miami, as suggested by a USA Today article.

“Everyone whose name has surfaced surrounding the Miami New Times story and Biogenesis is being investigated with equal vigor,” Manfred said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel.

Which would be great if now other reporters, also well-connected ones like Nightengale, weren’t continuing to hear otherwise. Here’s Yahoo!’s Jeff Passan from last night:

Major League Baseball is honing in on Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun as two main targets for potential discipline as it prepares to interview players about the Biogenesis clinic … Multiple sources said the league has discussed offers of immunity to major league players, though none has been officially offered … The league has interviewed players not on 40-man rosters, and one such player told Yahoo! Sports he was offered immunity in exchange for information about Biogenesis. [emphasis added]

Passan’s report backs Nightengale’s account way more than it backs a situation in which MLB’s claim that everyone is being investigated with “equal vigor.”

As I said yesterday, baseball can do whatever it wants. But if it is granting immunity to some players it is abandoning its zero tolerance policies and turning the drug enforcement program into a totally different animal than they have long claimed it to be.

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.