Padres’ Joe Musgrove wears No. 44 to honor Jake Peavy

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
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When Joe Musgrove reported to spring training to start his sixth big league season, a brown and gold No. 44 San Diego Padres jersey was hanging in his locker.

The No. 44 is a nod to Jake Peavy, the fiery right-hander Musgrove grew up cheering for. Musgrove continued to follow his hometown Padres even as his big league career unfolded elsewhere, and now he’ll get to pitch at Petco Park as part of a powerhouse rotation San Diego is counting on to take it deep into October.

“Putting on that jersey for the first time the other day was pretty special, and just hearing all the feedback from my family and friends about how good it is to see me in a Padres uniform,” Musgrove said in a videoconference Saturday from Peoria, Arizona.

Musgrove is among the big leaguers making a homecoming of sorts this spring. Just up the California coast, there’s NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, who grew up near Los Angeles listening to Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully and signed a $102 million, three-year deal with the Dodgers this month.

Elsewhere, a number of players have returned to teams where they had success: James Paxton with Seattle, Chris Archer in Tampa Bay, Jake Arrieta to the Chicago Cubs, Adam Eaton to the Chicago White Sox and Jed Lowrie in Oakland.

“This is where I wanted to be,” Arrieta said. “The last few days here, it just feels right.”

Musgrove was obtained in a trade with rebuilding Pittsburgh on Jan. 19, the third big trade Padres general manager A.J. Preller made after Christmas to restock the injury-depleted rotation. Preller also obtained Yu Darvish and Blake Snell in blockbuster deals that are expected to make the Padres one of the best teams in the majors this season. Darvish, Snell and Musgrove have all pitched in the World Series. Only Musgrove has won a ring, with Houston in 2017.

Musgrove said he was an energetic and emotional player as a kid, which is why he idolized Peavy, the 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner.

“Going to Padres games and seeing Peavy, you know, snot flying and grunting and fist-pumping, that was just kind of who I felt I was as a player and seeing a big leaguer at that time doing the same thing kind of gave me the confidence to go out there and be myself and play the game I wanted to,” Musgrove said. “It’s pretty special for me to wear 44, and I know there are a lot of expectations with it and I’ve got to do the number right.”

Musgrove goes from a Pirates team that had the worst record in the majors to what should be a heated NL West race with the eight-time division champion Dodgers.

He might wind up sharing the rubber with Bauer, introduced last week at Dodger Stadium, where he attended games as a kid with his father, listening to Scully’s call through headphones. Bauer was born in North Hollywood, attended high school in Santa Clarita and pitched at UCLA.

“A lot of people have told me, `If you can play for the Dodgers, you should. It’s first class, the best that I’ve ever experienced,”‘ Bauer said. “I’m just excited to be here for those reasons.”

Paxton, Seattle’s one-time ace, said a number of teams were interested in signing him but he decided to return to the Mariners – a team he threw a no-hitter with in 2018.

“I think that coming back to Seattle was the best long-term decision for me, looking forward in my career and what I want to do,” the left-hander said. “I want to get back to being myself this year. I really struggled last year coming back from the back surgery, and I’m comfortable here in Seattle. I love the group here, and I’m excited to be part of it.”

Familiarity is also why the defending AL West champion A’s brought back Lowrie for a third stint, on a minor-league deal, despite the infielder’s medical struggles.

Lowrie was limited the past two years by knee injuries and played only nine games in 2019 for the New York Mets and none last year. He has not played the field since 2018, when he was an All-Star with Oakland.

“I saw what he did for us in 2018, and that alone was enough for us to hope that he can still impact our team,” A’s general manager David Forst said this week. “Obviously he had a rough last couple of years, dealing with a knee injury that we think is taken care of now.”

Arrieta is looking forward to his return to the Cubs on a $6 million, one-year deal. His former catcher, David Ross, is now the Cubs’ manager.

Now 34, Arrieta helped the Cubs win the World Series in 2016 and threw no-hitters in consecutive seasons.

“To play for a manager that caught one of my no-hitters is pretty cool,” Arrieta said Saturday.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. 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 the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.