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.

Five minor leaguers suspended for drug violations

Say no to drugs
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NEW YORK (AP) Five minor league pitchers have been suspended for drug violations.

The commissioner’s office announced the penalties Tuesday.

Three of the players are part of the Toronto system. Right-hander Juan Jimenez and left-hander Naswell Paulino were each suspended for 72 games, and righty Jol Concepcion was banned for 60 games. Jimenez, Paulino and Concepcion tested for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance.

Jimenez and Paulino are on the roster for the rookie-level Dominican Summer League Blue Jays, and Concepcion is on the roster of the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Blue Jays.

Kansas City minor leaguer Travis Eckert and free-agent lefty Kevin Duchene each tested positive for a drug of abuse. Eckert was suspended for 50 games following a second positive test, and Duchene received a 100-game penalty following a third positive test.

Eckert is on the roster for Single-A Lexington of the South Atlantic League.

There have been 79 suspensions under the minor league drug program this year and five under the major league program.