John Buck passed through waivers unclaimed after being designated for assignment by the Mariners last week and the veteran catcher has been released.
Buck was only owed about $500,000 for the remainder of this season, so any team that felt like he’d be an upgrade behind the plate, even in a backup role, could have claimed that contract off waivers rather than trying to sign him now as a free agent.
But the 33-year-old hit just .226 with one homer and a .579 OPS in 27 games for Seattle, hasn’t cracked a .700 OPS since 2010 when he made the All-Star team with Toronto, and reportedly frustrated the Mariners with his poor defense. He figures to latch on somewhere as a backup, but it might take a stint at Triple-A first.
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.