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.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.