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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.

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.