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Unsurprisingly, a bunch of teams had representatives watching Shohei Otani

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About half of the league had representatives on hand to watch Shohei Otani pitch for the Nippon Ham Fighters in the Japan Pacific League on Thursday, the Kyodo News reports. Yankees GM Brian Cashman was among the reps scouting Otani. Others, according to Ken Rosenthal, included the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Dodgers, Pirates, Mariners, Rangers, Blue Jays, and Nationals, as well as the Padres and Rays.

Otani went 3 1/3 innings, yielding four runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts. It’s only his second start of the season, as he has been battling some injuries. Known for being a two-way player, Otani is hitting .342/.402/.548 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 164 plate appearances on the season.

Jon Morosi reports that those within the industry have “increasing confidence” that Otani will play in Major League Baseball next year. Of course, he’ll be subject to the league’s international spending limit. Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish headline an otherwise underwhelming group of free agent starters, which will likely help increase interest in Otani.

Sheldon Ocker named winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award

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The Baseball Writers Association of America has named Sheldon Ocker the winner of the 2018 J.G. Taylor Spink Award. He will be honored with the award that is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing” during Hall of Fame inductions in Cooperstown on July 29.

Ocker began covering the Indians for the Akron Beacon Journal in 1981 and did so until 2013, when he retired. He was national president of the BBWAA in 1985 and served as chair of the Cleveland Chapter 11 times. He named Ohio Sports Writer of the Year in 1997 and 2000 by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.