Report: Cardinals interested in Lucas Harrell and Bud Norris

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Now that Rafael Furcal is done for the season following Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, it’s not surprising to hear that the Cardinals are asking around about shortstops. But this report from MLB Network’s Peter Gammons indicates that they are also in the market for a starting pitcher.

This one is a bit of a head-scratcher, as the Cardinals have more starters than rotation spots at the moment, even after the loss of Chris Carpenter. While Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are set to occupy the first four spots in the rotation, Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller are currently competing for the fifth spot. Trevor Rosenthal was sent to the bullpen last week, but he’s also capable of starting. And that’s not even including top prospects like Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, who could be options later this year. Still, if the Cardinals wanted either pitcher, they certainly have the prospect inventory to get a deal done.

Harrell, 27, posted a 3.76 ERA and 140/78 K/BB ratio over 193 2/3 innings last season and won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2015. Norris has shown some potential at times, but he’s coming off a disappointing 4.65 ERA in 29 starts last year. The 28-year-old right-hander was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and can become a free agent after 2015. As I noted on Twitter earlier this week, Norris has a 2.74 ERA in 15 career starts against the Cardinals and a 4.77 ERA in 83 games against everybody else.

Japanese Baseball to begin June 19

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Japanese League commissioner Atsushi Saito announced that Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19. Teams can being practice games on June 2. There will be no fans. Indeed, the league has not yet even begun to seriously discuss a plan for fans to begin attending games, though that may happen eventually.

The season will begin three months after its originally scheduled opening day of March 20. It will be 120 games long. Teams in each six-team league — the Central League and Pacific League — will play 24 games against each league opponent. There will be no interleague play and no all-star game.

The announcement came in the wake of a national state of emergency being lifted for both Tokyo and the island of Hokkaido. The rest of the country emerged from the state of emergency earlier this month. This will allow the Japanese leagues to follow leagues in South Korea and Taiwan which have been playing for several weeks.

In the United States, Major League Baseball is hoping to resume spring training in mid June before launching a shortened regular season in early July. That plan is contingent on the league and the players’ union coming to an agreement on both financial arrangements and safety protocols for a 2020 season. Negotiations on both are ongoing. Major League Baseball will, reportedly, make a formal proposal about player compensation tomorrow.