Hideki Okajima thinking retirement or return to Japan after spending season in minors

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Hideki Okajima has spent nearly the entire season at Triple-A despite signing a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Red Sox and the 35-year-old left-hander told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that he’s thinking about retiring or going back to Japan.

Okajima had three straight seasons with a sub-3.50 ERA setting up Jonathan Papelbon, but struggled last season with a 4.50 ERA and 33/20 K/BB ratio in 46 innings and the Red Sox lost all confidence in him.

They’ve called up a half-dozen other left-handed relievers during the season, bypassing Okajima despite his 2.29 ERA and 48/9 K/BB ratio in 51 innings at Triple-A.

Okajima admitted that he “never expected to return back to Boston” once he was removed from the 40-man roster, but thought he’d be pitching for another team by now. Instead he’s been stuck in Pawtucket, dominating Triple-A hitters while his career ERA in the majors remains 3.11.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.