Baseball to open the season in Japan again

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Major League Baseball just announced that it will open the 2012 regular season in Japan. It will be a two-game set between the Mariners and the Athletics, scheduled for March 28 and 29 in the Tokyo Dome.

Baseball has opened in Japan four times, but not since 2008.  You’ll no doubt remember that it was the 2008 series between the A’s and the Red Sox in which the phrase “And That Happened” was born. Here was the first-ever ATH post.  As you can see, the first ever joke I made in ATH — about a manager’s winning percentage being awesome after having one game under his belt — is the same damn joke I used about Don Cooper this morning. I’m also ragging on the Giants offense and the futility of Barry Zito. I have not progressed one iota, and I’m pretty OK with that.

The series in Japan was also the subject of a brief wildcat strike by the Red Sox over the issue of stipends paid — or not paid — to team staffers.  It was pretty darn eventful!

Hopefully this time we can avoid meme-creation and labor strife.

Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord

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John Wisely of the Detroit Free Press reports that current free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez is being sued by his former landlord for damage to the rented property as well as missing artwork. The landlord is asking for $80,000 after having kept Rodriguez’s $15,000 security deposit.

The lawsuit says that Rodriguez damaged a bedroom TV, a crystal floor lamp, glass shelves in the bar, glass tiles in the master bath, and a Moroccan mirror in the powder room. Additionally, the suit claims that the bedding is stained and paint has chipped, as well as other damages. And the piece of art that is allegedly missing, which depicts a tiger, is valued at more than $10,000.

Rodriguez has not yet been served with the suit, but the landlord has been speaking to his managers.

The Nationals released Rodriguez, 35, two weeks ago after having signed him to a minor league contract in late June. He started the season with the Tigers, but struggled to a 7.82 ERA over 25 1/3 innings before being released.

Report: Rays acquire Lucas Duda from the Mets

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MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reports that the Rays have acquired first baseman Lucas Duda from the Mets. The Mets will receive pitching prospect Drew Smith in return, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Duda, 31, is batting .246/.347/.532 with 17 home runs and 37 RBI in 291 plate appearances for the Mets this season. He’ll provide a potent bat in the Rays’ lineup as they attempt to overcome their current 2.5-game deficit in the AL East.

Smith, 23, is the Rays’ No. 30 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He ascended from High-A to Triple-A already this season, posting an aggregate 1.60 ERA with a 40/9 K/BB ratio over 45 innings across four stops with High-A Lakeland (Tigers), High-A Charlotte (Rays), Double-A Montgomery, and Triple-A Durham.