King Felix spins another beaut

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Clay Buchholz is, without question, the early leader for the Cy Young Award. But there are a lot of good pitchers in the AL who stand to take the lead if Buchholz falters. One of ’em is a usual suspect: Felix Hernandez. And last night he was his typical dominant self.

Hernandez threw eight shutout innings in the Mariners’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jays, striking out seven, walking no one and allowing only five hits while only needing 95 pitches. In his last four starts he has struck out 35 batters while walking only two and allowing 20 hits and two earned runs — just two! — in thirty innings. Of course he got a no decision in one of ’em, where he struck out 12 and allowed a single run.  The Mariners are gonna Mariner.

Most of us miss so many of his starts because he’s usually on west coast time. When he does get a start on eastern time like last night — and like it appears he will against the Yankees on May 16 — we easties should tune in and see a real doctor at work.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.