Shohei Otani to sign with major league team

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Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old right-hander, was expected to be one of the top picks in Thursday’s Nippon Professional Baseball Draft. But he has suddenly decided to take a different route.

According to the AP, via NBCSports.com, Otani “will pursue a career in Major League Baseball instead of turning professional in Japan.” He has already caught the attention of scouts from several major league teams, including the Red Sox and the Dodgers.

The 6-foot-4 starting pitching prospect will naturally draw comparisons this winter to the Rangers’ Yu Darvish, but he actually throws harder. Otani was clocked this summer between 99 and 100 mph, though his command reportedly needs work.

“I think I will start in the minor leagues but I want to challenge in the majors,” Otani told the Japanese media on Sunday. “It’s been my dream since entering high school.” He would be the first player to ever jump from a Japanese high school to the professional ranks in the United States.

The Cubs are considering a sportsbook at Wrigley Field

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With the nationwide ban on sports gambling gone — and with sports gambling regulations slowly being implemented on a state-by-state basis — any number of businesses are considering getting in on the action. Among those businesses are the Chicago Cubs.

ESPN reports that the club is considering opening gambling facilities in and around Wrigley Field which might include betting windows, automated kiosks or, possibly, a full, casino-style sportsbook. They’re characterized as preliminary discussions as the team awaits the Illinois governor’s signature on recently-passed legislation allowing gambling. The Cubs aren’t commenting, but a source tells ESPN that nothing has been done yet. It’s just talk at the moment.

If the Cubs move forward from the talking stage it will cost them a pretty penny: a four-year license will, under Illinois’ new law, cost them $10 million.

Now: let’s see the White Sox take some action this year. I can think of nothing more fun than sports gambling at what was once Comiskey Park on the 100th anniversary of the Black Sox scandal.