Soon every Cubs hitter will have his own coach

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Last month the Cubs fired hitting coach Gerald Perry one season after
he presided over the league’s highest-scoring offense, so having run
out of ideas for how to get Kosuke Fukudome on track now that he’s
faded following a great start for the second straight season they’ve turned to his old hitting coach from Japan for help:

Kyosuke Sasaki will join the team in Philadelphia on Monday. Sasaki
will work with Fukudome for a week or so, hoping to get the same kind
of success he saw with the Chunichi Dragons, where Fukudome won a pair
of batting titles. “He’s going to be on the field and in uniform with
us for a few days and let him observe,” manager Lou Piniella said. “If
need be, he can work with Fukudome all he wants.”

Last year Fukudome hit .327/.436/.480 in April compared to
.241/.340/.355 from May 1 on and this year he batted .338/.461/.592 in
April only to hit .235/.346/.385 since, but it’s worth noting that he’s
at .288/.377/.577 with nine extra-base hits in 15 games this month.
Meanwhile, Piniella has bypassed new hitting coach Von Joshua and plans to personally tutor Milton Bradley:

Piniella plans to take a turn soon at trying to solve Milton
Bradley’s season-long hitting slump from the left side of the plate
that neither Bradley nor two hitting coaches have cracked. “I had a
nice talk with Bradley,” Piniella said. “I’m going to work with him
personally for a while and see if we can get him going.” …

Joshua has worked with Bradley on getting his top half in sync with
his bottom half in his left-handed stance and swing. “We’re going to
try to simplify things a little bit,” Piniella said. “We’re going to
get him a little shorter path to the ball, increase a little bat speed.
And we can do that with a couple of adjustments, I feel. We’ll start
[today]. And when he’s ready, we’ll get him out there.”

Now that Sasaki “can work with Fukudome all he wants” and Piniella is
taking care of Bradley, Joshua is left with just 10 hitters to work
with. Or maybe 11 if you decide to count either Andres Blanco or Carlos Zambrano as hitters. Not a bad gig.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.