Indians sign Jeff Francoeur

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The Indians just announced that they have signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported earlier this evening that the two sides were close to a deal.

Francoeur, who turns 30 on Wednesday, hit rock bottom last season by batting just .204/.238/.298 with three home runs and 17 RBI over 81 games between the Royals and Giants. His .536 OPS was third-lowest in MLB among players with at least 250 plate appearances. Only Jeff Mathis and Brendan Ryan were worse. And that’s not where you want to be. Francoeur wasn’t much better in 2012, putting up 16 homers and a .665 OPS in 148 games, so his days as a regular are probably over.

The Indians already have a right-handed hitting outfielder with Ryan Raburn, so it could be a challenge for Francoeur to crack the Opening Day roster. And hey, if he ends up at Triple-A Columbus, at least he would have a new best friend close by.

UPDATE: Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that Francoeur will receive a $1 million base salary if he makes the Indians and could earn more with incentives.

Video: Justin Verlander reaches career mark with 270th strikeout

Justin Verlander
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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.