Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes reacts after one of his 234 strikeouts this season on the way to winning the NL Cy Young Award. Aaron Gash/Associated Press

In this Year of the Pitcher, both Robbie Ray and Corbin Burnes completed their own kind of comebacks.

Ray rebounded from a dismal season that saw him take a rare pay cut to win the AL Cy Young Award with Toronto and Burnes returned from an early bout of COVID-19 with Milwaukee to win the NL’s top pitching prize Wednesday.

“Everyone has their story,” Burnes said during a conference call.

Burnes led the majors with a 2.43 ERA and edged out Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler. They both got 12 first-place votes from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, but Burnes drew 14 seconds to Wheeler’s nine.

Burnes pitched 167 innings, the fewest for a Cy Young-winning starter in a non-shortened season, and struck out 234. Wheeler struck out 247 – one shy of Ray’s big league-leading total – and topped the majors with 213 1/3 innings.

“Everyone’s case,” Burnes said, “was different.”


Ray was best in the AL with a 2.84 ERA and 193 1/3 innings. That came after a pandemic-shortened 2020 when the lefty went a combined 2-5 with a 6.62 ERA for Arizona and Blue Jays and issued the most walks in the majors.

“I knew … I was going to have to put in some hard work,” Ray said, adding, “I knew I wanted to make changes.”

And in a sign of just how much voters have moved past simply win-loss records while crunching new-era stats, Dodgers lefty Julio Urias posted the most victories in going 20-3, but finished a distant eighth and didn’t get a single top-four nod.

Max Scherzer, who pitched for Los Angeles and Washington, finished third in the NL and Dodgers ace Walker Buehler was fourth.

Burnes became the first Brewers pitcher to earn the NL honor – Pete Vuckovich in 1982 and Rollie Fingers in 1981 won the award when Milwaukee was still in the American League.

Ray got 29 first-place votes and became the first Toronto pitcher to win since the late Roy Halladay in 2003. Yankees ace Gerrit Cole drew the other top vote and finished second and Chicago White Sox righty Lance Lynn was third.


Ray went 13-7 in 32 starts and helped keep Toronto in playoff contention until the final weekend.

Having turned 30 last month, the award sets him up well – a free agent, he turned down an $18.4 million qualifying offer from Toronto earlier Wednesday.

“I’m enjoying free agency,” he said. “The process is a lot of fun.”

Ray said Toronto is “still in the conversation.”

“Obviously, I love Toronto, but we’ll see where things go,” he said.

Burnes was 11-5 and an All-Star for the NL Central champion Brewers. His innings count was lower than his competitors, owing to him missing two weeks in early May after testing positive for the coronavirus.


In his first season as a full-time starter, Burnes struck out a record 58 before issuing his first walk. He tied the major league mark by fanning 10 in a row against the Cubs in August.

Burnes combined with closer Josh Hader on a no-hitter against Cleveland in September. Burnes struck out 14 over eight innings in that game – it was the record ninth no-hitter in the majors this season, topping the eight set in 1884 when pitchers began throwing overhand.

Burnes had an 8.82 ERA in 28 relief appearances and four starts in 2019, then was 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA during the virus-shortened season when he was hampered by an oblique strain. He came back to lead the majors with 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings this year.

“You always have to evolve,” he said.

Voting for the awards was completed before the playoffs began. Burnes threw six shutout innings against Atlanta in the NL Division Series and turned 27 later in October.

Ray’s power arm always drew attention. He ranks No. 1 in major league history with 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings (minimum: 1,000 innings), and he was an All-Star with Arizona in 2017.


But controlling his heat and sharp breaking pitches often was a problem, and Ray bottomed out last year.

The dip caused his base salary to drop from $9.43 million to $8 million this year. He earned some of that back with a $125,000 for winning the Cy Young, and figures to cash in even more soon.

Drafted and signed by Washington in 2010, Ray made his big league debut in 2014 with Detroit – that staff also included future Cy Young winners Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and David Price.

Ray was traded with cash to Toronto on Aug. 31, 2020, for reliever Travis Bergen. Ray was 49-51 with a 4.26 ERA over seven seasons in the majors before this big year.

Ray became the fifth Blue Jays pitcher to win the Cy Young, along Halladay, Roger Clemens in 1997-98 and Pat Hentgen in 1996.

ASTROS: Justin Verlander has agreed to a $25 million, one-year contract with the Houston Astros that includes a conditional $25 million player option for a second season.


Verlander became a free agent after completing a $94 million, three-year contract with the Astros. He played in just one game in the past two seasons.

He made just one start in 2020, pitching six innings on July 24 in a win over Seattle on Opening Day before being placed on the injured list with strained right forearm. He attempted a comeback after he was injured, but announced on Sept. 19, 2020 that he needed Tommy John surgery and underwent the procedure on Oct. 1.

He said earlier this year that his rehabilitation was going well and added that he hated that he only played one game in the time that deal covered.

“That gnaws at me,” he said. “But … this was an unfortunate injury that nobody could have seen coming. But I still do like to earn my keep.”

The 38-year-old right-hander is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2011 AL MVP.

Verlander spent his first 13 seasons with the Detroit Tigers before being traded to the Astros on Aug. 31, 2017. His stellar performance after the late deal helped Houston to its first World Series title that season. He is 43-15 with a 2.45 ERA and 640 strikeouts in 74 starts for the Astros.


Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA in 2019, striking out a career-high 300 and throwing the third no-hitter of his career to win his second career Cy Young Award. He pitched 223 innings, most in the majors, and made six more starts in the postseason as the Astros reached the World Series.

Verlander is 226-129 with a 3.33 ERA in 16 seasons. Along with his Cy Young Awards and MVP award, he was also the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year. He has 3,013 strikeouts in his career, which ranks 19th all-time.

OWNERS MEETINGS: New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said he voted for Major League Baseball’s proposal to lower the luxury tax threshold, a plan opposed by the players’ union with the sport on the brink of its first work stoppage on 26 years.

The luxury tax, formally known as the competitive balance tax, had a threshold of $210 million this year. Owners proposed lowering it to $180 million and adding a $100 million payroll floor. The union long has opposed a floor, fearing it would lead to a hard cap.

MLB’s five-year labor contract expires at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 1, and Steinbrenner said the owners are having discussions with the players’ union “on a continuous basis.”

But negotiations have been taking place since last spring, and there has been no sign of any significant movement toward a deal. If the agreement expires without a new deal in place, Major League Baseball could lock out its players – putting the start of spring training in jeopardy.


MARLINS: The Miami Marlins completed their coaching staff for next season, adding Marcus Thames from the New York Yankees and promoting Al Pedrique, Edwar Gonzalez and Eric Duncan from various roles within the organization.

The Marlins went 67-95 this year under Manager Don Mattingly.

Thames spent the last four seasons as the Yankees’ hitting coach and two more before that as the club’s assistant hitting coach. Thames was a teammate of Derek Jeter – now the Marlins’ CEO – with the Yankees during the 2002 and 2010 seasons, part of Thames’ 10-year MLB playing career.

The Yankees hit a MLB-best 889 home runs in Thames’ four years as hitting coach. But his contract for 2022 was not renewed by New York after a season when the Yankees were only 23rd-best in the majors with a .237 batting average.

Pedrique will be Miami’s third base and infield coach after serving as manager of the Marlins’ Triple-A team in Jacksonville in 2021.

Gonzalez takes over as assistant hitting coach for what will be his third season in the Miami organization, after serving as the team’s minor league hitting coordinator. He also has past experience with the Yankees, spending nine years in that organization.


Duncan will be the quality assurance coach on Mattingly’s staff, after previously working as the Marlins’ minor league hitting coordinator, then getting promoted to assistant hitting coach and eventually hitting coach.

MARINERS: The Seattle Mariners will induct Ichiro Suzuki into the team’s Hall of Fame during the 2022 season, the club announced.

Suzuki will be honored on Aug. 27 when Seattle faces Cleveland.

Suzuki spent parts of 14 seasons with the Mariners before retiring in March 2019 after Seattle opened the season with games in his home country of Japan. Suzuki was a 10-time All-Star, 10-time Gold Glove winner, won two batting titles and was the 2001 Rookie of the Year and MVP in his debut season with the Mariners.

Suzuki also played for the New York Yankees and Miami.

Suzuki is currently an instructor for the Mariners working with the major league and Triple-A teams. He’ll be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2025.


GUARDIANS: The Cleveland Indians will officially transition to Guardians on Friday, completing a name change that has been happening in stages over the past few months.

The team sent out a release saying its team shop at Progressive Field will begin selling Guardians merchandise and souvenirs later this week. The store at the team’s downtown ballpark will exclusively sell Guardians gear before it becomes available at retail outlets in northeast Ohio on Nov. 23.

The team said some digital elements will change Thursday before Cleveland’s team website and social media handles transition on Friday.

Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team has been known as the Indians since 1915. But after years of protests and following the club dropping its contentious Chief Wahoo logo, the Indians decided to change to Guardians, a name inspired by eight massive, art-deco statues on the Hope Memorial Bridge near the ballpark.

FREE AGENTS: First baseman Brandon Belt accepted an $18.4 million qualifying offer from the San Francisco Giants rather than pursue bidders as a free agent.

Belt was the only one to accept among the 14 free agents who received the offers from their former clubs on Nov. 7.

Players who turned down offers included first baseman Freddie Freeman (Atlanta), shortstop Carlos Correa and right-hander Justin Verlander (Houston), right-hander Raisel Iglesias (Los Angeles Angels), left-hander Robbie Ray and second baseman/shortstop Marcus Semien (Toronto), outfielder Nick Castellanos (Cincinnati), shortstop Trevor Story (Colorado), shortstop Corey Seager and infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor (Los Angeles Dodgers) and outfielder Michael Conforto (New York Mets).

Two of the players who received offers have finalized contracts with new teams. Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez left Boston for a $77 million, five-year contract with Detroit, and right-hander Noah Syndergaard left the Mets for a $21 million, one-year contract with the Angels.

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