Athletics acquire closer Jim Johnson from Orioles

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UPDATE: FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports that the Athletics have acquired Johnson from the Orioles in exchange for second baseman Jemile Weeks. The Orioles are also expected to receive a player to be named later.

Weeks was once a top prospect with the A’s, but he has fallen out of favor over the past two seasons. He appeared in just eight games at the major league level this year and hit .271/.376/.369 with four home runs, 40 RBI, and 17 stolen bases over 130 games in Triple-A. Still, he doesn’t turn 27 until January, so perhaps the change of scenery will do him some good. He should have a chance to compete for the starting second base job in the spring.

With Johnson’s expected raise in arbitration, the return wasn’t nearly as important as the salary flexibility. The Orioles can now address other areas of need. Tommy Hunter gives them an in-house option at closer, though they could look to the free agent and trade markets for a replacement.

10:22 p.m. ET: Well, here’s a surprise. While we learned earlier today that the Dodgers were “in the mix” to potentially acquire Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal now hears that the Athletics are now the “most involved” in trade discussions. Furthermore, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers no longer expect to acquire him.

Given that Johnson will see his salary rise to around $10 million in his final year of arbitration, he would appear to be an odd fit for the usually cost-conscious Athletics. However, they have a vacancy in the closer role with Grant Baflour on the free agent market. And they would only have to commit one year if they make the trade.

Johnson had his second-straight 50-save season this year, leading the American League once again, but he also led the majors with nine blown saves. The Orioles are essentially shopping him in order to shed salary, so the return could be minimal.

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.