Behind James Shields, Rays set AL record for strikeouts

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Rays right-hander James Shields reached 200 strikeouts for the second straight season Friday in a 12-1 win over the Blue Jays. Along the way, he recorded the team’s 1,267 strikeout, breaking the American League record set by the 2001 Yankees.

J.P. Arencibia was the victim. It was Shields’ third strikeout of the night on his way to finishing the game with nine.

The Rays ended the game with 1,275 strikeouts, leaving them 129 shy of the major league record of 1,404 strikeouts set by the 2003 Cubs. That’s out of reach with just 11 games to go. Still, 1,350 or strikeouts for an AL team could well be considered more impressive that 1,404 from an NL team that got to face pitchers most of the year.

Shields in the Rays’ leader at 202 strikeouts for the season, with David Price not too far behind at 188. Rookie Matt Moore has 169 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings. The bullpen also deserves plenty of credit. Wade Davis has 80 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings, Joel Peralta has 77 in 61 1/3 innings and Jake McGee has 66 in 50 1/3 innings. Fernando Rodney’s 68 strikeouts in 68 1/3 innings seem almost modest in comparison.

Twins designate Phil Hughes for assignment

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
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Phil Hughes was officially designated for assignment by the Twins on Tuesday, the culmination of multiple injury-plagued seasons and poor performance.

Things couldn’t have started out much better for Hughes in Minnesota. The former Yankees hurler joined the Twins on a three-year, $24 million contract in December of 2013 and reeled off a 3.52 ERA over 32 starts during his first season with the club. He set the MLB record (which still stands, by the way) for single season strikeout-to-walk ratio and even received some downballot Cy Young Award consideration. The big year resulted in the two sides ripping up their previous agreement with a new five-year, $58 million deal, but it was all downhill after that.

Hughes took a step back with a 4.40 ERA in 2015 and struggled with a 5.95 ERA over 11 starts and one relief appearance in 2016 before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He wasn’t any better upon his return last year, putting up a 5.87 ERA in nine starts and five relief appearances. Hughes missed time with a biceps issue and required a thoracic outlet revision surgery in August. He began this year on the disabled list with an oblique injury, only to put up a 6.75 ERA over two starts and five relief appearances before the Twins decided to turn the page this week.

Hughes is still owed the remainder of his $13.2 million salary for this year and another $13.2 million next year. The deal didn’t work out as anyone would have hoped, but unfortunately this is another case of health just not cooperating.