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.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.