Former major leaguers in Japan – Pitchers

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In case you missed it, I ran down the hitters on Wednesday.

D.J. Houlton – 5-3, 2.13 ERA, 62/21 K/BB in 76 IP

Houlton ranks third in the Pacific League in ERA behind Masahiro Tanaka
and Yu Darvish. The 29-year-old was a swingman last year in his first
season in Japan. He had a 4.18 ERA in 28 innings out of the pen for the
Dodgers in 2007, but former GM Paul DePodesta was likely his biggest
backer in the organization and the new regime didn’t think he had much
to offer.

Colby Lewis – 4-3, 3.34 ERA, 69/5 K/BB in 59 1/3 IP

Lewis is off last year’s pace, as he went 15-8 with a 2.68 ERA and a
183/27 K/BB ratio in 178 innings in his first season with the Carp.
Still, there would likely be several teams interested if he opted to
return to the majors.

Mike Schultz – 2-0, 1 Sv, 1.17 ERA, 32/6 K/BB in 30 2/3 IP

Schultz’s major league experience consists of one inning with the
Diamondbacks in 2007. He was a fringe relief prospect for several years
before finding himself in Japan.

Marc Kroon – 0-1, 11 Sv, 1.13 ERA, 27/12 K/BB in 24 IP

Kroon’s outstanding fastball never made him a successful major
leaguer, as he gave up 23 runs and walked 26 in 26 2/3 innings in parts
of four seasons before leaving for Japan in 2005. He’s since saved 136
games as one of Japan’s premier closers.

Darrell Rasner – 3-4, 6.62 ERA, 34/16 K/BB in 51 2/3 IP

Rasner was the top pitcher to jump to Japan over the winter, with
the Yankees reportedly receiving $1 million for his rights. The move,
though, hasn’t worked out Rakuten so far.

Kazuhisa Ishii – 3-5, 5.33 ERA, 63/25 K/BB in 54 IP

The now 35-year-old Ishii has seen his ERA increase every season
since returning to Japan, going from 3.44 to 2006 to 4.14 in 2007 and
4.32 last year (he did switch from the non-DH league to the DH league
after 2007, so he was probably better in 2008 than the previous year).

Brian Falkenborg – 3-0, 1 Sv, 0.92 ERA, 35/2 K/B in 29 1/3 IP

Falkenborg had seen major league action in each of the last five
seasons, but since he never could establish himself, he opted to go to
Japan prior to this year. It seems likely to pay off, as he’s been one
of the country’s best relievers so far.

Others

Justin Germano – 2-0, 1.46 ERA, 2/0 K/BB in 12 1/3 IP
Ryan Glynn – 2-8, 5.05 ERA, 31/22 K/BB in 62 1/3 IP
Dicky Gonzalez – 6-1, 2.11 ERA, 33/4 K/BB in 55 1/3 IP
Seth Greisinger – 6-4, 4.26 ERA, 47/10 K/BB in 76 IP
Kameron Loe – 0-4, 6.33 ERA, 18/12 K/BB in 27 IP
Brian Sweeney – 2-3, 5.94 ERA, 28/21 K/BB in 53 IP
Les Walrond – 3-6, 3.72 ERA, 56/30 K/BB in 65 1/3 IP
John Wasdin – 2-2, 5.04 ERA, 10/11 K/BB in 30 1/3 IP

Scott Atchison – 3-2, 0 Sv, 2.91 ERA, 32/10 K/BB in 34 IP
Ricky Barrett – 0-1, 0 Sv, 5.40 ERA, 3/8 K/BB in 8 1/3 IP
Scott Dohmann – 0-0, 0 Sv, 17.28 ERA, 4/7 K/BB in 8 1/3 IP
Alex Graman – 0-2, 3 Sv, 5.40 ERA, 1/2 K/BB in 5 IP
Marcus Gwyn – 1-1, 1 Sv, 2.70 ERA, 22/11 K/BB in 23 1/3 IP
Jon Leicester – 0-1, 0 Sv, 4.32 ERA, 10/4 K/BB in 8 1/3 IP
Masao Kida – 3-3, 0 Sv, 5.67 ERA, 19/14 K/BB in 33 1/3 IP
Satoru Komiyama – 1-0, 0 Sv, 10.13 ERA, 7/1 K/BB in 13 1/3 IP
Michael Nakamura – 1-1, 0 Sv, 7.04 ERA, 12/7 K/BB in 15 1/3 IP
Tom Mastny – 0-2, 0 Sv, 4.14 ERA, 24/15 K/BB in 37 IP
Maximo Nelson – 0-2, 1 Sv, 3.81 ERA, 23/10 K/BB in 26 IP
Nelson Payano – 0-0, 0 Sv, 1.74 ERA, 13/7 K/BB in 10 1/3 IP
Brian Sikorski – 4-2, 1 Sv, 1.40 ERA, 30/8 K/BB in 25 2/3 IP
Kazuhito Tadano – 2-2, 0 Sv, 7.71 ERA, 8/7 K/BB in 21 IP
Ryan Vogelsong – 0-3, 0 Sv, 6.84 ERA, 33/10 K/BB in 25 IP
Jeff Williams – 1-1, 0 Sv, 3.28 ERA, 33/14 K/BB in 24 2/3 IP

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

Blue Jays roster and schedule
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”