Wily Mo Pena close to signing deal with Japanese team

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According to Sponichi in Japan, via Yakyubaka.com and CBS Sports’ Eye on Baseball, free agent slugger Wily Mo Pena is close to signing a two-year contract with the Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball.

Pena, 29, slugged seven home runs in 120 major league plate appearances this past year between the Diamondbacks and Mariners. He also tallied 25 homers in 76 games at the Triple-A level.

That raw power has always been intriguing to big league front offices, but Pena has never really had a position — he’s a highly unreliable defensive outfielder — and never possessed the kind of plate discipline that would make him worthy of a starting DH gig. His career MLB strikeout rate is 30.3%.

The Sponichi report suggests that he will receive around $5 million in total salary, a lofty price tag for any NPB athlete. Perhaps the Softbank Hawks believe that the batting-practice showman carries star potential.

Dodgers plan to tab Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of World Series

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers plan to tab ace Clayton Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series. Nothing is set in stone yet ahead of Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series. In the event Kershaw can’t start Game 1, Rich Hill would start. Otherwise, Hill would start Game 4.

Kershaw, started Game 1 and Game 5 of the NLCS against the Brewers, then closed out Game 7 with a flawless inning. He was hit around to the tune of five runs (four earned) over three-plus innings in Game 1, but rebounded for seven innings of one-run ball in Game 5. He struck out two en route to sending the Dodgers to the World Series in the ninth inning of Game 7.

Kershaw also tossed eight shutout innings against the Braves in Game 2 of the NLDS. Overall, he has a 2.37 ERA in 19 innings this postseason. There was no doubt who would be the Dodgers’ first choice to start Game 1, but it’s a relatively recent situation where the ace of a team also closed out the final game of the previous series.

Hill has put up a 2.61 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this postseason. While he doesn’t have Kershaw’s pedigree, the Dodgers would be confident having him lead off the series. Hill was excellent down the stretch last year, helping the Dodgers reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros.

The Red Sox plan to start Chris Sale in Game 1 now that he’s recovered from a brief stint in the hospital due to a stomach ailment. The lefty has a 3.48 in 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs this year. He’s among a handful of candidates for the AL Cy Young award after posting a 2.11 ERA in the regular season, but his lack of innings (158) may hurt him.