Orioles interested in Japanese lefty Takahashi

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Last offseason the Orioles signed veteran Japanese starter Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million deal and now they’re reportedly interested in his former Yomiuri Giants teammate Hisanori Takahashi.
Baltimore also made a run at Kenshin Kawakami last winter before he ended up in Atlanta, so the Orioles are suddenly very active in pursuing Japanese players. Uehara spent most of the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, but when healthy he posted a solid 4.05 ERA and 48/12 K/BB ratio in a dozen starts.
Uehara was once among the best pitchers in Japan, whereas Takahashi has been more of a mid-rotation guy. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker notes that Takahashi turns 36 years old in April and works with a fastball that rarely cracks 90 miles per hour, but also features “an excellent screwball” and was very effective this season with a 2.94 ERA and 121/36 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.
Takahashi has said previously that he wants to remain a starter, but Newman suggests that he “seems better suited for the bullpen” and could be “an effective reliever in the Hideki Okajima mold.” That would obviously be a best-case scenario given that Okajima has a 2.72 ERA in 192 innings for the Red Sox, but he’s shown that Japanese lefties with good, unconventional off-speed stuff can thrive in the majors despite high-80s fastballs.

Video: Jake Arrieta hits a 465-foot home run off of Zack Greinke

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Jake Arrieta‘s bat is in midseason form already. The Cubs’ ace swatted a solo home run to center field off of Zack Greinke in Thursday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition game, his first homer of the spring.

The blast went 465 feet, according to MLB.com’s Daren Willman.

Arrieta has hit two home runs in each of the past two seasons. Madison Bumgarner (eight) and Noah Syndergaard (four) are the only other pitchers to match or exceed his output in that department.

Greinke, meanwhile, is hoping to bounce back after a miserable 2016 season. He finished with an uncharacteristic 4.37 ERA in 26 starts in his first year with the Diamondbacks.

Luis Valbuena to miss four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring

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Angels first baseman Luis Valbuena will miss the next four to six weeks with a strained right hamstring, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times reports.

Valbuena, 31, signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Angels in January and was on track to get the lion’s share of the playing time at first base. While he’s out, however, C.J. Cron will handle first base on a regular basis. When Valbeuna returns, the two will likely form a platoon.

Last year with the Astros, Valbuena hit a solid .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances.