Brian Bannister is AWOL from the Yomiuri Giants

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Weird story involving former Royals pitcher Brian Bannister. Banny left the majors after last season and signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants of the NPB.  When the earthquake hit he, like a lot of gaijin left Japan to be with their families and get the hell out of the way of rescue and recovery efforts.  Most who did so asked permission first. Most who did so have since come back, seeing as the season has gotten underway.  Not Bannister. He just up and left and hasn’t come back.

As a result, the Giants have put him on the restricted list and his future in baseball is in doubt. He wasn’t reached for comment in the article. And though it is reported in the article that Bannister told the Giants he’d rather retire than return to Japan, the team denies that such discussions took place.

This could be a rather ignominious end to what has been a fairly interesting baseball career.

Royals sign Drew Storen to minor league deal

Drew Storen
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The Royals are in agreement with right-handed reliever Drew Storen on a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Per Jon Heyman of MLB Network, the deal is worth $1.25 million if the veteran righty breaks camp with the club this spring. Additional, albeit unspecified incentives will be included in the contract as well.

Storen, 31, is coming off of a protracted absence from any MLB duties. After inking a one-year deal with the Reds in 2017, he sustained a right elbow sprain toward the end of the year and underwent Tommy John surgery that October. He was effectively decommissioned for the club’s entire 2018 run and generated little interest around the league this winter, perhaps due in part to the uninspired 4.45 ERA, 3.8 BB/9, 7.9 SO/9, and career-low -0.2 fWAR he posted across 54 2/3 innings during his last healthy season.

While it’s not immediately clear what kind of performance the Royals can expect from Storen in spring training, they’re not exactly in a position to be choosy. Their bullpen ranked dead last among all MLB teams with a collective 5.04 ERA, 4.85 FIP, and -2.2 fWAR last year, and still appears to be in a state of flux as they approach Opening Day. Skipper Ned Yost told reporters Wednesday that he intends to eschew the traditional closer appointment in 2019 and will instead utilize a combination of right-handers Wily Peralta and Brad Boxberger, lefty Tim Hill, and various others as he tackles high-leverage situations in the future.