Rays add two top international prospects

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When we checked in a few hours ago, eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects had signed. Now it’s up to 14 of the 18 eligible to do so. Left-hander Luis Gohara (July 31) and shortstop Sergio Alcantara (July 10) aren’t eligible to ink contracts until their 16th birthdays later this month.

The Rays added inked two of the six additions, and they’re Nos. 3 and 14 on the Baseball America list. No. 3 Jose Mujica is a right-handed pitcher, while No. 14 David Rodriguez is a catcher. Both were signed out of Venezuela.

The Yankees, already in possession of BA’s No. 2 prospect in catcher Luis Torrens, added No. 4, Venezuelan outfielder Alexander Palma. They also signed shortstop Yancarlos Baez, who didn’t make the list. In all, the three players got $2.75 million in bonuses, leaving the Yankees already up against the new $2.9 million cap.

The top player left on BA’s list is Venezuelan left-hander Jose Casillo, who is also rumored to be signing with the Rays.

One team that hasn’t been active so far is the Rangers. They’ve made big splashes in recent years, but they may be holding on to their cap room this year to sign Jairo Beras. As you may remember, the Rangers initially inked Beras for $4.5 million in March, only to have his status come under question because of his age. The Rangers say Beras is 17, which would have made him eligible to sign in March. Other teams thought he was 16 and wouldn’t be eligible to sign until today.

Video: Justin Verlander reaches career mark with 270th strikeout

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Justin Verlander is approaching the tail end of a fantastic year with the Astros — arguably one of his best in the last decade — and on Saturday, he kicked off his last regular season start at Minute Maid Park with a strikeout, his 270th of the year. While that’s still a few shy of Max Scherzer‘s league-best mark of 290, it was a new personal record for Verlander, who had yet to beat the previous career record he set with 269 strikeouts in 2009.

Verlander’s moment arrived at the top of the first inning on a seven-pitch called strikeout against the Angels’ Kole Calhoun. Cole worked a 2-2 count, then fouled off a pair of 95-MPH fastballs before missing the seventh and final pitch at the top of the strike zone.

Jose Fernandez battled twice as long in the next at-bat, albeit with far more disastrous results. His 14-pitch duel against the Astros’ righty ended when he caught a fastball on his hand and was forced to come out of the game.

After expending a total of 27 pitches in the first inning, however, Verlander returned in the second to strike out the side, then logged another pair of strikeouts in the third. With six strikeouts through three innings, he boosted his season strikeout total to 275 — just a hair above fellow Houston righty Gerrit Cole (and all other AL pitchers), who previously led the team with 272 whiffs on the year.