Report: Orioles and Nelson Cruz agree to a one-year, $8 million contract

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UPDATE: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports that the Orioles and Cruz have agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract, pending a physical. The deal includes $750,000 in incentives, but it looks like a potential bargain addition for Baltimore as they attempt to make a run at the postseason.

As for Cruz, settling for a one-year, $8 million guarantee is obviously not what he had in mind at the start of the offseason. However, a number of factors had an impact on his market, including draft pick compensation, questions about how he’ll perform after his PED suspension and away from Texas, as well as his age and poor defense. On the bright side, if he has a nice year in Baltimore, perhaps he’ll get a better payday next offseason.

8:50 a.m. ET: After making a move for a starting pitcher earlier this week by signing right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million contract, the Orioles are now on the verge of adding a bat. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, Baltimore is closing in on a deal for free agent slugger Nelson Cruz.

No word yet on the terms involved and Heyman writes that a couple of issues still need to be resolved, but a deal is seen as “extremely likely.” The Orioles would surrender their second-round pick (and the corresponding draft pool money) in order to sign Cruz, as they already gave up their first-rounder for Jimenez. It’s unclear whether signing Cruz officially takes the Orioles out of the mix for Ervin Santana, but it’s safe to say that they fully intend to contend this season.

The Orioles are unsettled in the DH spot, so given Cruz’s poor reputation on defense, he should be a good fit there. It could also help keep him healthy, which has been an issue for him in previous since and should be a consideration as he moves toward his mid-30s.

Cruz was limited to 109 games last season due to his 50-game PED suspension, but he still hit .266/.327/.506 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. The 33-year-old has 135 home runs over the past five seasons. Only 16 players have more in the same timespan.

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.