Red Sox close to re-signing reliever Hideki Okajima

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Non-tendered by the Red Sox three weeks ago Hideki Okajima is close to returning to Boston, according to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe.

Cafardo reports that Okajima is on the verge of agreeing to a one-year contract, presumably for less than the $3.5 million or so the Red Sox likely would have owed him through the arbitration process.

After posting a 2.72 ERA in his first three seasons Okajima was relegated to mop-up duties following a terrible first half, angered the Boston media by avoiding interviews, and admitted to being homesick without anyone to talk to in the bullpen.

All of which explains why he was non-tendered, but Okajima finished the season by allowing just two runs in his final 16 appearances to end with a reasonable 4.50 ERA in 46 innings and he’s certainly far less of a risk than relying on Rich Hill or Andrew Miller to fill a left-handed setup role.

Blue Jays clinch playoff berth with Orioles’ loss to Red Sox

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TORONTO — The Blue Jays clinched a postseason berth Thursday without taking the field.

Toronto was assured of an AL wild card berth when the Boston Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.

If Toronto holds its current position as the first of the AL’s three wild cards, the Blue Jays would open a best-of-three wild-card series at Rogers Centre next week.

“These guys are excited to be in this position,” Blue Jays manager John Schneider said after Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the New York Yankees. “You’ve got three really good pitchers lined up against a good Boston team, playing at home. So I think it’s more excitement more than it’s nerves or anything. I think the guys are going to come out and be ready to roll on Friday night.”

Toronto became the fourth AL team to clinch a playoff berth, joining division champions Houston, the Yankees and Cleveland. The Astros and Yankees have first-round byes.

The Blue Jays last went to the playoffs in 2020, when they were knocked out with two straight losses to Tampa Bay.

Eight of the 12 berths in the expanded postseason have been clinched: The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis earned division titles, and Atlanta and the New York Mets are assured no worse the wild cards while still competing to win the NL East. The Dodgers have a first-round bye.