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.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves