Kosuke Fukudome returns to Japan

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Kosuke Fukudome has returned to Japan after five seasons in America, with Sponichi News reporting that he’s agreed to a three-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers.

Fukudome was largely viewed as a huge bust after leaving Japan in 2008 to sign a four-year, $48 million deal with the Cubs, but while he certainly wasn’t worth that investment he did prove to be a solid (if incredibly streaky) player with a .360 on-base percentage in 596 games.

He spent most of last season in the minors at age 35, so Fukudome was unlikely to get more than a minor-league deal if he remained in America.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with 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.