Hideki Okajima released by Japanese team so he can return to MLB

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Hideki Okajima has been granted his release by the Softbank Hawks in Japan so that the 37-year-old reliever can pursue his plan of returning to MLB.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday that the A’s are among the teams interested in Okajima, who played five seasons for the Red Sox before heading back to Japan last year.

Okajima fell out of favor in Boston, spending most of 2011 in the minors, but he posted a 3.11 ERA for the Red Sox overall and had a 0.94 ERA in Japan last season after a minor-league deal with the Yankees was canceled due to shoulder problems.

Giants place Hunter Pence on 10-day disabled list with right thumb sprain

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The Giants placed outfielder Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a right thumb sprain, per an official announcement on Friday. Pence initially sustained the injury during the club’s home opener on April 3, when he dove to intercept a line drive double from Robinson Cano and jammed his thumb. Weeks of playing through the pain hasn’t worked, so he’ll take a breather while the Giants give outfielder Mac Williamson a chance to start in left after getting called up from Triple-A Fresno.

Pence, 35, wouldn’t pin his recent struggles on his injury, but it’s clear that he’s having difficulty finding his footing this year. He slashed a meager .172/.197/.190 through 61 plate appearances in 2018, collecting just one extra-base hit and two walks during the Giants’ dismal 7-11 stretch. While it’s far too early in the season to make any final judgments, it doesn’t look like the veteran outfielder will be replicating the .275+ average, 4.0+ fWAR totals of years past (at least, not anytime soon).

Williamson, meanwhile, has gotten off to a hot start in Triple-A. Prior to his call-up this weekend, the 27-year-old batted an incredible .487/.600/1.026 with six home runs and a 1.626 OPS through his first 50 PA. A hot Triple-A bat doesn’t always survive the transition to the majors, but the Giants will use all the help they can get — especially as they take on the AL West-leading Angels this weekend.