It’s a really thin market for middle infielders this winter. So thin that, if your team is in need of a shortstop, you may have come across the name Hiroyuki Nakajima on various message boards, blogs and other, less-reputable parts of the Internet where rumors and speculation flow thick. Nakajima plays for the Seibu Lions, he’s 28, he hits for power and gets on base and he reportedly wants to play in the United States.
But sorry, folks! Seibu has denied his request to be posted, which is the mechanism by which major league teams can pay for the privilege of negotiating with him. You’ll have to spend some time over at the excellent NPB Tracker to understand why this is. My guess, though: shortstops who can hit .300+ with power are just as rare in Japan as they are over here, and the Lions don’t want to part with him.
The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.
In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.
The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.