Craig Kimbrel wins Trevor Hoffman Award; Greg Holland gets Mariano Rivera Award

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Major League Baseball announced in April that two new regular-season awards would be handed out every year, going to the top reliever in each league. The NL’s award was named after Trevor Hoffman and the AL’s was named after Mariano Rivera. Here, via MLB’s Twitter account, are the first recipients …

That’s MLB commissioner-elect Rob Manfred standing between the two relievers. Kimbrel tallied a National League-leading 47 saves in 2014 for the Braves alongside a 1.61 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 13.9 K/9. Holland had a 1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 13.0 K/9 for the Royals. He can further pad his résumé in the World Series.

You could easily argue that Holland’s teammate Wade Davis was more deserving — he finished with a 1.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, and 13.6 K/9 — but this is apparently an award designed for closers. Yay, saves.

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.