Phillies reliever Scott Mathieson gets closing gig in Japan

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Longtime Phillies prospect Scott Mathieson certainly wasn’t going to get any saves in Philadelphia next year after the team signed Jonathan Papelbon, and the Phillies released him Tuesday so that he could join the Yomiuri Giants of Japan as their new closer.

Mathieson debuted with the Phillies way back in 2006, but he hurt his elbow the next season, missed all of 2008 following Tommy John surgery and had made only cameo appearances in the majors since. He had a 3.12 ERA and a 166/74 K/BB ratio in 146 2/3 innings in Triple-A the last two seasons, but he had pitched just 6 2/3 innings in the majors (giving up two earned runs) during that span.

Unfortunately, while Mathieson still has the nice fastball, his command is shaky and he lacks an exceptional second pitch. He still might have been a useful No. 3 or No. 4 right-hander in a major league pen, but he wasn’t going to make more than the minimum anytime soon. In Japan, he’ll earn $2 million per year, according to the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.