Indians to sign John Axford

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ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the Indians are expected to sign free agent reliever John Axford. We learned earlier that Indians president Mark Shapiro was expecting to sign a reliever soon and he moved quickly in talks with Axford.

Axford was non-tendered by the Cardinals on December 2 and has drawn interest from a number of teams, including the Orioles, Cubs, and Mariners. The right-hander should be expected to close, while Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw remain in their eighth-inning roles. Axford had lost his role as closer with the Brewers to Jim Henderson, and the Brewers eventually traded Axford to the Cardinals for Michael Blazek at the end of August, so it will be compelling to see if he can bounce back in the ninth inning.

Update: MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian confirms. The deal is pending a physical. Bastian adds:

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.