Former Cubs outfielder Matt Murton threatening to break Ichiro Suzuki's hit record in Japan

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Matt Murton was a 2003 first-round pick who hit .286/.352/.436 in 1,058 plate appearances spread over 354 games for the Cubs, Rockies, and A’s, but for whatever reason never really got a shot to be an everyday player despite doing very well as a 24-year-old regular in 2004.
After spending most of last season at Triple-A he headed to Japan, signing with the Hanshin Tigers, and yesterday Murton became just the fourth player in Japanese history to reach 200 hits in a season. Not only that, but with 201 hits and 10 games remaining he has a chance to break the all-time record of 210 hits held by Ichiro Suzuki.
Murton is hitting .352 with 17 homers for Hanshin and has averaged 1.5 hits per game, which puts him on a 216-hit pace. However, as Daisuke Wakabayashi of the Wall Street Journal points out “there are past examples of Japanese pitchers refusing to challenge foreign players who are close to breaking Japanese baseball records.”
It’ll be interesting to see if Murton gets enough strikes to make a run at Suzuki’s record and if the big season in Japan will cause an MLB to give him another look.

Giants remove pitching coach Dave Righetti

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After 18 years, 12 winning seasons, seven postseason runs and three World Championships, Dave Righetti is no longer a pitching coach for the Giants. He was removed from his post on Saturday, when the team announced a few reassignments as they shake up their coaching staff. Heading into the 2018 season, Righetti will serve as special assistant to general manager Bobby Evans, former bullpen coach Mark Gardner will step into a similar special assistant role to “assist in pitching evaluations,” and former assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will take a special assistant role in baseball operations.

According to MLB.com’s Chris Haft, Righetti was the longest-tenured pitching coach in the big leagues. He helped shape the careers of notable Giants’ aces like Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain — all Cy Young contenders (and, in Lincecum’s case, a two-time winner) at various points in their careers. He was there to assist Ryan Vogelsong during his stunning mid-career comeback in San Francisco. He helped newcomers like Chris Stratton and Ty Blach flourish even as the team stumbled to the bottom of the division. He was there to take the credit when a sterling rotation clinched the Giants’ 56-year, drought-snapping championship title in 2010 — and, when things went so horribly south in 2017, he took the blame as well.

Hardly anything went right for the Giants’ pitching staff in 2017. Madison Bumgarner was shelved after sustaining a serious shoulder injury in a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto couldn’t shake a cluster of blisters on his right hand and Mark Melancon found it difficult to justify a $62 million paycheck after pitching through an arm injury to four blown losses/saves and a 4.50 ERA. It would be a lot for any pitching coach to stay on top of, and given the team’s rapid descent from 2016 postseason contenders to last-place finishers in 2017, it’s not surprising that Evans felt the need to switch things up.

Successors have yet to be named for Righetti, Gardner or Decker, though Murray hears that the Giants could have interest in former major league pitching coach Jim Hickey. NBC Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic adds that Evans is searching for someone to “put a new voice” on the pitching staff and will likely target someone who, like Righetti, brings considerable experience to the role.