Rays sign Dustin McGowan to minor league deal

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After re-signing Sergio Romo to a one-year deal on Friday, the Rays continued to deepen their bullpen reserves with fellow free agent right-hander Dustin McGowan. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that McGowan has agreed to a minor league deal, which includes an invitation to spring training.

McGowan, 35, completed a two-year stint with the Marlins in 2017. He didn’t have the most productive season, skidding to a 4.75 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9 and -0.3 fWAR in 77 2/3 innings, but proved capable of shouldering a heavy workload and extended an impressive four-year streak without a trip to the disabled list.

The righty is poised to enter camp with right-handed relievers Nathan Eovaldi, Chih-Wei Hu, Austin Pruitt, Jaime Schultz and Ryne Stanek. There’s still some uncertainty surrounding the exact configuration of the bullpen; as MLB.com’s Bill Chastain noted earlier this week, the Rays expect Eovaldi to compete for a rotation spot in 2018 and could look to righties Andrew Kittredge, Chaz Roe and Hunter Wood for additional support. While he may not be the sub-3.00 ERA hurler of years past, McGowan could provide a stabilizing veteran presence to a young bullpen, one that might be facing the departure of established closer Alex Colome later this year.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”