Report: Padres favorites to sign Kazuhisa Makita

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The Padres are looking like strong favorites to sign right-hander Kazuhisa Makita, according to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan. Makita is already en route to San Diego for a physical and has until 5 PM ET on January 10 to finalize a contract with the club.

Makita, 33, completed his seventh straight campaign with the Saitama Seibu Lions of Japan Pacific League in 2017. The submariner produced his worst numbers since he transitioned to a swingman role in 2016, though that isn’t saying much — he finished the 2017 season with a remarkable 2.30 ERA, 0.7 BB/9 and 5.0 SO/9 in 62 2/3 innings. While he’s not a strikeout wizard by any stretch of the imagination, he proved himself more than capable of handling MLB batters back in 2014, combining with Takahiro Norimoto, Yuki Nishi and Yuji Nishino to no-hit a lineup of MLB All-Stars during the Japan Series.

A report from Yahoo Japan suggests that the Padres aren’t the only team in the mix for Makita’s services, listing the Rangers as another possible landing spot for the veteran righty. No other bids have been publicized yet, however, and it seems like a foregone conclusion that Makita will end up in San Diego by the January 10 deadline.

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”