Red Sox near deal with Japanese left-hander Itsuki Shoda

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Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker passes along a Nikkan Sports report which says the Red Sox are expected to sign Japanese left-hander Itsuki Shoda to a minor league contract.

Alex Speier of WEEI.com translates the report, where Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein is quoted as saying a deal is near completion and that Shoda will report to minor league camp.

Shoda, 29, won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2002 after going 9-11 with a 3.45 ERA as a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters, but has had a difficult time replicating his early success. He was eventually traded to the Hanshin Tigers following the 2006 season, where he spent two seasons in the minor leagues. The southpaw has spent the past two seasons in Taiwan as a member of the Sinon Bulls. He went 11-5 with a 2.81 ERA last season, striking out 116 batters over 166 1/3 innings. As Speier notes, he is regarded as a curveball specialist.

Video: Jaime Garcia hits a 399-foot grand slam

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Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.

The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.

Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.

As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:

Ryon Healy exits game after taking a ground ball to the face

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Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.

Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.

Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.