Norichika Aoki proves to be a big find for the Brewers

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Norichika Aoki’s third big-league homer — coming six innings after his second — was a walkoff blast in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday, giving the Brewers a 4-3 victory over the Cubs.

Aoki ended up with his second straight three-hit game today, making this something of a coming out party against the Cubs.

Aoki, a three-time batting champ in Japan, received very little interest from anyone other than the Brewers after saying he wanted to jump to MLB last winter. Even the Brewers might have passed if not for the looming threat of Ryan Braun’s pending 50-game suspension. Milwaukee signed the 30-year-old to a two-year, $2.5 million contract that didn’t even promise him a roster spot coming out of spring training.

Aoki went on to make the club, but he still started all of three games in April. More playing time came last month with Carlos Gomez on the DL and Nyjer Morgan struggling, and while Aoki didn’t take advantage at first, he’s been one of the Brewers’ best players the last three weeks. With Corey Hart often at first base as a result of Mat Gamel’s season-ending knee injury, Aoki has stepped in as a right fielder against right-handers and hit .343/.389/.582 in 67 at-bats since May 17.

It’s the power that’s a surprise. Aoki hit as many as 20 homers in a season in Japan, but he was all of the way down to four last year in his final season the Yakult Swallows. Imports with similar power production in Japan have tended to be singles hitters in MLB. Aoki, though, has 13 extra-base hits already in 119 at-bats for the Brewers.

The Brewers signed Aoki with the idea that he’d be their fifth outfielder. Now he may well get a shot to be a full-timer. Both of his homers today came off righties, but he’s actually hitting .341 in 41 at-bats in lefty-lefty matchups. Hart should get used to playing first base going forward.

Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Rodriguez underwent surgery

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Red Sox DH Hanley Ramirez announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he underwent surgery — left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports that the operation is considered relatively minor.

Ramirez, 33, has been dealing with shoulder issues for a while, which explains his lackluster regular season numbers. He hit .242/.320/.429 with 23 home runs, 62 RBI, and 58 runs scored in 553 plate appearances. He turned things on in the postseason, though, racking up eight hits in 15 trips to the plate in the ALDS against the Astros.

Ramirez should be good to go heading into spring training. He has one more guaranteed year left on his contract at $22 million and has a vesting option for the 2019 season worth another $22 million.

Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez also had surgery, Britton reports. The procedure was right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction and it was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Rodriguez has a six-month timetable, which Britton estimates will allow him to make his 2018 regular season debut around the All-Star break.

Rodriguez, 24, posted a 4.19 ERA with a 150/50 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season. He’ll be entering his first of four years of arbitration eligibility this offseason.