Orioles closer Jim Johnson unavailable after hospital stay

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If the Orioles have a ninth-inning lead tonight the save chance won’t go to Jim Johnson, as the closer went to the hospital early this morning with flu symptoms.

Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun notes that the flu bug has been making its way through the Orioles’ clubhouse recently, so hopefully Johnson won’t miss more than a day or two.

It’s rough timing for Johnson, as he’s taken extremely well to the full-time closing gig and has saved a league-leading seven games in eight scoreless appearances. Presumably any save chances will go to Matt Lindstrom rather than Kevin Gregg, although both have previous closing experience.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.