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Saturday September 18th, 2021 8:59AM

LEADING OFF: Joe West to break record for most games as ump

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors today:

GO WEST

Joe West is set to break the record for most games as a major league umpire with No. 5,376 when he works the Cardinals-White Sox matchup in Chicago.

Now 68, West started out in 1976 -- the first time he worked the plate, knuckleballing Hall of Famer Phil Niekro was throwing to Braves catcher Dale Murphy.

West will break the mark set by Bill Klem, who worked from 1905-41 and was known for his complete control in making running games. “It ain’t nothin’ till I call it,” he supposedly said.

A college quarterback who led Elon to the NAIA championship game in 1973, West became the best-known ump in the bigs for all sorts of reasons. Never shy about speaking his mind -- or singing, earning the nicknames of “Cowboy Joe” and “Country Joe” for his music -- West has drawn plenty of praise and criticism over the decades.

At the 2017 All-Star Game, Seattle slugger Nelson Cruz came to the plate, pulled out his phone and had catcher Yadier Molina take a picture of himself with West. Asked why, Cruz said: “He’s a legend, you know?”

There are indications this is West’s final season. Maybe he’ll retire in midseason, maybe he’ll finish out the year.

Either way, as always, that’ll be his call.

DEGROM’S RETURN

Mets ace Jacob deGrom is scheduled to start against Colorado after being sidelined since May 9 by tightness in his right side. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out eight and walked none in three hitless innings during an injury rehabilitation outing for the St. Lucie Mets in the Low-A Southeast League last Thursday.

The 32-year-old deGrom is 3-2 with a 0.68 ERA in six starts for New York this season with 65 strikeouts and seven walks in 40 innings.

“We want to see how the game goes,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said Monday. “That’s going to be the feel for the decision on when he’s coming out. So right now, we don’t have any pitch count in mind.”

DEVIL RAY DOZEN

Randy Arozarena, Manuel Margot and Tampa Bay can tie the longest winning streak in franchise history at 12 with a win over Kansas City.

The Rays won their 11th straight on Monday, scoring seven times in the 11th inning to beat Toronto.

In 2004, playing as the Devil Rays, they won 12 in a row under manager Lou Piniella.

Lefty Rich Hill starts for Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field in the opener of a three-game series against the Royals.

FAMILIAR FACES

Former high school teammates Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito will be on opposing sides when St. Louis visits the White Sox. A Cardinals ace at 25, Flaherty (8-0, 2.53 ERA) pitched with the 26-year-old Giolito (3-4, 4.35 ERA) at Harvard-Westlake High in Los Angeles.

Former Dodgers teammates Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke meet when LA opens a series at Houston. Kershaw (6-3, 3.18 ERA) hasn’t faced the Astros in the regular season since 2015, but went 1-0 with a 4.02 ERA vs. Houston over three appearances in a 2017 World Series defeat. Greinke (4-1, 3.77) spent more than three seasons with the Dodgers before leaving as a free agent after 2015.

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