Julio Franco, still going at age 56

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They will take the bat away from Julio Franco when they pry it from his cold, dead hands:

The Million Stars are part of Japan’s independent “Challenge League.” Also on that team: Eri Yoshida, the woman knuckleballer who made some headlines stateside a few years back.

Franco is 56. Last year he served as a player-manager for the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United Baseball League. He last played in the bigs in 2007 at 49. He was still a very useful big leaguer back when he was with the Braves between the ages of 43 and 47. After the nuclear war, he’ll be the last ballplayer standing, I guarantee it.

(Via CBS)

Nationals sign George Kontos to minors deal

George Kontos
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The Nationals selected the contract of reliever George Kontos from the Atlantic League Long Island Ducks, per an official announcement on Saturday. The right-hander has been assigned to Triple-A Fresno, but could still make his season debut sometime before the first half of the season draws to a close.

Kontos, 33, hasn’t pitched in the majors since he took a handful of back-to-back-to-back gigs with the Pirates, Indians, and Yankees in 2018. He inked a minor league pact with the Cubs over the offseason, but failed to break camp with the team and was subsequently released in mid-April. He turned in seven strong innings for the Ducks since then, allowing one run and one walk and striking out six of 27 batters in six appearances.

Last year, the veteran reliever posted a combined 4.39 ERA, 2.4 BB/9, and 5.1 SO/9 over 26 2/3 innings. While he hasn’t pitched anywhere close to his career-best numbers in four years, he may still provide some valuable depth for the club, whose bullpen ranks 10th best in the league with a cumulative 4.59 ERA and 5.9 fWAR so far in 2019.