Ex-Cub Matt Murton an early-season start in Japan

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With the NPB season about 25 games in, let’s have a look at some of the early numbers from Japan:
Central League hitters
Matt Murton – .343/.398/.525 in 99 AB
Jose Castillo – .341/.371/.538 in 91 AB
Tony Blanco – .314/.385/.581 in 105 AB
Craig Brazell – .280/.344/.573 in 82 AB
Jamie D’Antona – .245/.296/.480 in 98 AB
Alex Ramirez – .243/.369/.524 in 103 AB
Aaron Guiel – .239/.396/.568 in 88 AB
Terrmel Sledge – .226/.308/.452 in 93 AB
Kenji Johjima – .226/.255/.355 in 93 AB
I’d like to see Matt Murton playing a significant role on a major league team, but at least he’s making decent money overseas and at age 28, he’s still young enough to come back to the U.S. and succeed someday. In the meantime, he’s sixth in the Central League in average and tied for fourth with 19 runs scored in 24 games.
Pacific League hitters
Alex Cabrera – .407/.500/.802 in 81 AB
Tadahito Iguchi – .366/.508/.584 in 101 AB
Jose Ortiz – .271/.328/.533 in 107 AB
Greg LaRocca – .237/.317/.427 in 89 AB
Dee Brown – .225/.295/.396 in 111 AB
Cabrera is another who would have hit in the majors, but when he looked to return to the States after the 2007 season, he didn’t find any suitable offers. It was understandable at the time, given that he was 36 and coming off the worst of his seven seasons in Japan. He’s 38 now and still a dominant force in Japan. He leads the Pacific League with eight homers, one more than Ortiz and two in front of Takeya Nakamura. No one else in the circuit has a slugging percentage within 200 points of his .802 mark.
The pitching numbers aren’t very interesting yet, so I’ll skip the full rundown. Two lines are worth of note: Yu Darvish is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA that ranks fourth in the Pacific League and a league-best 63 strikeouts in 46 innings and former Diamondbacks prospect Tony Barnette currently leads the Central League with a 1.73 ERA after four starts.
Barnette, 26, was 14-8 with a 5.79 ERA and a 121/62 K/BB ratio for Triple-A Reno last year.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will open season in Dodgers’ rotation

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the regular season in the starting rotation, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports.

Ryu, 30, missed the entire 2015 season and made only one start last season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. The lefty has looked solid in three spring appearances, however, yielding a lone run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

With Scott Kazmir likely to begin the season on the disabled list, that leaves Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.