Casey McGehee, Hector Luna tearing up the Japanese Leagues

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A month into NPB play, the leading hitters in both the Central and Pacific Leagues are former major leaguers playing in Japan for the first time. Here are some early numbers:

Central League – Hitting

Hector Luna: .402/.462/.624, 3 HR in 117 AB
Matt Murton: .362/.400/.474, 2 HR in 116 AB
Tony Blanco: .346/.423/.841, 16 HR in 107 AB
Jose Lopez: .324/.348/.595, 7 HR in 111 AB
Wladimir Balentien: .317/.447/ 783, 8 HR in 60 AB
Tsuyoshi Nishioka: .298/.367/.368, 0 HR in 114 AB
John Bowker: .296/.351/.662, 6 HR in 71 AB
Lastings Milledge: .246/.320/.368, 2 HR in 114 AB
Brooks Conrad: .180/.328/.280, 0 HR in 50 AB
Kosuke Fukudome: .162/.250/.288, 4 HR in 111 AB
Nyjer Morgan: .132/.250/.132, 0 HR in 38 AB

Luna, Murton and Blanco are the Central League’s top three hitters by average. Murton, who set a Central League record for hits in his NPB debut in 2010, seems to be on the way back up this year after a very disappointing 2012. … Milledge, on the other hand, is struggling after ranking among the league leaders with a .300/.379/.485 line and 21 homers in his debut for Yakult last year. … Fukudome ranks last among qualifiers in batting average in his return to Japan.

Central League – Pitching

Daniel Cabrera: 3-1, 1.09 ERA, 25/10 K/BB in 33 IP
Bryan Bullington: 2-1, 2.22 ERA, 27/6 K/BB in 44 2/3 IP
Brad Bergesen: 1-1, 4.43 ERA, 9/9 K/BB in 22 1/3 IP
Kam Mickolio: 1.35 ERA, 5 Sv, 7/5 K/BB in 13 1/3 IP
Scott Mathieson: 2.38 ERA, 7 Hd, 13/5 K/BB in 11 1/3 IP

Bullington, an MLB bust after being drafted first overall by the Pirates in 2002, made headlines for all of the wrong reasons the other day, intentionally plunking a hitter who had asked for time.

Pacific League – Hitting

Casey McGehee: .396/.476/.637, 5 HR in 91 AB
Esteban German: .367/.473/.411, 0 HR in 90 AB
Tadahito Iguchi: .318/.434/.466, 1 HR in 88 AB
Bryan LaHair: .314/.375/.598, 7 HR in 102 AB
Michel Abreu: .298/.359/.606, 9 HR in 94 AB
Andruw Jones: .247/.398/.416, 4 HR in 89 AB
Kaz Matsui: .244/.284/.400, 2 HR in 90 AB
Wily Mo Pena: .208/.279/.260, 0 HR in 77 AB
Ryan Spilborghs: .197/.271/.279, 1 HR in 61 AB

It can’t be great for baseball pride that no Japanese player is in the top three in hitting in either circuit right now. Sandwiched in between McGehee and German atop the Pacific League list is Korean superstar Dae-Ho Lee. … Wily Mo is sporting an incredibly unusual line in 77 at-bats, suggesting that he’s battling some sort of injury. He hit .280 with 21 homers for Softbank last year.

Pacific League – Pitching

Brandon Dickson: 3-1, 2.18 ERA, 20/8 K/BB in 33 IP
Brandon Duckworth: 1-3, 4.71 ERA, 16/10 K/BB in 28 2/3 IP
Brian Falkenborg: 0.75 ERA, 6 Sv, 12/1 K/BB in 12 IP
Dennis Sarfate: 0.00 ERA, 2 Hd, 6/6 K/BB in 9 1/3 IP
Vicente Padilla: 5.40 ERA, 2/4 K/BB in 5 IP

Padilla, after Andruw Jones probably Japan’s most notable import over the winter, has been dealing with forearm soreness, but he’s back pitching for Softbank now.

Clayton Kershaw’s initial prognosis: 4-6 weeks on the disabled list

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Some seriously bad news for the Dodgers: Ken Rosenthal reports that the initial prognosis on Clayton Kershaw is that he will miss 4-6 weeks with his bad back. A final determination will be made after he gets a second medical consultation.

Kershaw exited Sunday’s start against the Braves with back tightness after just two innings of work. He was seen talking with trainers in the dugout after completing the top of the second inning and did not return to the mound for the third. Kershaw has a history of back problems. Last year he missed over two months with a herniated disc in his back.

Assuming the preliminary schedule holds, Kershaw would be on the shelf until late August at the earliest, but more likely early-to-mid September. The Dodgers currently hold a 10.5 game lead in the NL West so they can withstand his absence. But if they have any hopes of advancing in the playoffs, they’ll need a fully armed and operational Clayton Kershaw to do it.

David Price was a complete jackass to Dennis Eckersley

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In late June, Red Sox pitcher David Price confronted Hall of Famer and NESN analyst Dennis Eckersley during a team flight to Toronto. The circumstances of the argument were not clear at the time and at least one report said that it was a “back and forth,” presumably about some critical comments Eckersley made on the air about Price. We learned a few days after that it was less of a “back and forth” than it was Price merely berating Eckersley.

Now, via this story from Dan Shaugnessy of the Boston Globe, we get the true flavor of the exchange. It does not reflect well on Price or his teammates:

On the day of the episode, Price was standing near the middle of the team aircraft, surrounded by fellow players, waiting for Eckersley. When Eckersley approached, on his way to the back of the plane (Sox broadcasters traditionally sit in the rear of the aircraft), a grandstanding Price stood in front of Eckersley and shouted, “Here he is — the greatest pitcher who ever lived! This game is easy for him!’’

When a stunned Eckersley tried to speak, Price shot back with, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Many players applauded.

Eckersley made his way to the back of the plane as players in the middle of the plane started their card games. In the middle of the short flight, Eckersley got up and walked toward the front where Sox boss Dave Dombrowski was seated. When Eckersley passed through the card-playing section in the middle, Price went at him again, shouting, “Get the [expletive] out of here!’’

Assuming this account is accurate, Price’s behavior was nothing short of disgraceful. Disgraceful in that Price was too much of a coward to take his issues up with Ecklersley one-on-one. Beyond that, it’s classic bully behavior, with Price waiting until he was surrounded by lackeys to hurl insults in a situation where Eckersley had no opportunity to effectively respond.

But it’s mostly just sad. Sad that David Price is so painfully sensitive that he cannot handle criticism from a man who is, without question, one of the best who has ever played the game. One of the few men who has been in his shoes and stood on that same mound and faced the same sorts of challenges Price has attempted to face. And, it should be noted, faced them with more success in his career than Price has so far.

No one likes criticism, but David Price is at a place in his life where he is, inevitably, going to receive it. And unlike virtually every other person who may offer it to him, Dennis Eckersley knows, quite personally, of what he speaks.

Shame on David Price for acting like a child. Shame on his teammates for backing him up. Shame on John Farrell and the rest of the Red Sox organization for not sitting Price down, explaining that he messed up and encouraging him to apologize. And, of course, if he apologizes now, it’s not because he means it. He’s had a month to reflect. It’s simply because his disgraceful behavior is now all over the pages of the Boston Globe.

What a pathetic display.