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.

Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title

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The Marlins announced on Sunday that outfielder Giancarlo Stanton will defend his Home Run Derby title when the city of Miami host’s the All-Star Game festivities next month.

Stanton, 27, defeated Todd Frazier in the finals of last year’s Home Run Derby at Petco Park, hitting 20 home runs to Frazier’s 13. Stanton hit a total of 61 home runs in the Derby. This will be the third Home Run Derby in which Stanton has participated.

Stanton also went 1-for-3 with a solo home run to help the Marlins defeat the Cubs 4-2 on Sunday. He’s now batting .274/.357/.551 with 20 home runs and 49 RBI in 311 plate appearances.

Aaron Hicks to go on the disabled list with an oblique injury

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.

Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.

Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.