Released by the Phillies, John Bowker heads to Japan

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Philadelphia released John Bowker so that he could sign a deal to play in Japan, putting an end to (or at least putting on hold) a big-league career that just never really got going.

Bowker was the Giants’ third-round pick in 2004 and always put up strong numbers in the minors, hitting .307 with an .886 OPS in 139 games at Double-A and .314 with a .922 OPS in 311 games at Triple-A.

His only real extended chance in the majors came in 2008 and he fared decently for a 24-year-old rookie, hitting .255 with a .708 OPS in 111 games, but since then Bowker has totaled just 272 plate appearances in the majors while hitting .202. He probably deserved more of an opportunity at some point, but Bowker will likely make more money in Japan than he would have as a role player in America anyway.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.

Phillies release veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday

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The Phillies announced on Monday that the club released veteran catchers Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. Both were competing for the back-up catcher spot on the team’s 25-man roster. With both out of the picture, that means Andrew Knapp has won that honor.

Knapp, 25, hit a combined .266/.330/.390 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 443 plate appearances last year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He did not have a great spring but has hit well as of late, which likely pushed him ahead of Hanigan and Holaday. Knapp will serve as the understudy to starting catcher Cameron Rupp.