Twins sign Rich Harden to minor league deal

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Rich Harden will attempt his comeback in Minnesota, as the Twins announced that they’ve signed the oft-injured right-hander to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Harden missed all of last season following shoulder surgery and hasn’t had an ERA below 5.00 since 2009, so much of the upside he once possessed has vanished, but he’s still just 31 years old and had good strikeout totals even while performing poorly overall in 2010 and 2011.

At some point it would make sense for a team to see if Harden can stay healthy and effective as a full-time reliever, but that hasn’t happened yet and the Twins figure to give him an opportunity to win a spot in their rebuilt rotation. Don’t count on it happening, but for a no-risk minor-league deal he’s a decent flier to take.

Athletics and Mariners to begin the 2019 regular season in Tokyo

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners will begin the 2019 regular season in Japan, in the Tokyo Dome.

The series will mark the third time that the A’s will begin their season in Japan, first doing it in 2008 against the Red Sox and then again in 2012 against the Mariners.

This is just the latest of Major League Baseball’s moves to expand the the game internationally. In addition to those previous series in Japan, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened their season in Australia in 2014 and the Dodgers and Padres will play a series in Mexico City this May. There has likewise been talk of the Mets playing a series in London, though those details have not yet been worked out. Obviously the World Baseball Classic represents the league’s effort to broaden the global scope of the once national pastime.

Get ready for early morning baseball, folks.