Brad Penny officially signs with Japan’s Softbank Hawks

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According to the Associated Press, via the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Softbank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball announced Sunday on their team website that veteran right-hander Brad Penny has officially agreed to a contract for 2012.

Terms of the deal have not been released. Penny is expected to travel to Japan on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old struggled to find much free agent interest from major league teams this winter after registering a rough 5.30 ERA, 1.56 WHIP and 74/62 K/BB ratio across 181 2/3 innings last season for the Tigers. Once regarded as a dangerous power pitcher, his fastball averaged a nine-year low 92.6 mph in 2011. The pitch averaged 94.1 mph in 2010, when Penny posted a 3.23 ERA and 35/9 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 frames for the Cardinals before experiencing back problems.

UPDATE, 1:59 PM: According to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal, Penny’s contract is worth $4 million. It also carries $3.5 million worth of incentives and a $4.5 million mutual option for 2013.

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.