TORONTO — No matter the ultimate role, the Toronto Blue Jays are convinced of one thing when it comes to Shun Yamaguchi: His split-finger fastball will allow him to get outs in the major leagues.
Dipping their toes into the Japanese market for pitching depth Tuesday, the Jays agreed to terms with Yamaguchi, a 32-year-old right-hander, on a two-year deal worth a little more than $6 million total, according to sources.
The contract also includes undisclosed performance bonuses.
While there’s always a perceived upside that comes with the unknown, the veteran of 14 Nippon Professional Baseball seasons has logged 1,080.1 innings and registered a 3.35 career ERA in a variety of roles, including leading Japan’s Central League in strikeouts with 188 this year for the Yomiuri Giants.
Subject to the posting system, the Blue Jays will also have to pay the Giants 20 per cent of total guaranteed value of the contract as a release fee, which adds up to about $1.2 million.
Right now, the Blue Jays envision Yamaguchi attempting to earn a spot in the rotation next spring, but if he isn’t one of the best five or struggles, the 6-foot-2, 198-pounder could be used in any number of bullpen roles.
It’s notable that, in addition to being used as a starter since 2015, Yamaguchi also has 112 saves on his resume, and the splitter that’s viewed as a plus pitch might be the swing-and-miss offering needed to become a go-to option for manager Charlie Montoyo in high-leverage spots.
Yamaguchi earned his first Best Nine Award — essentially best player at every position — in his final season in Japan this year, and he’s the first Giants player to ever be posted.
In 170 innings, Yamaguchi allowed just 137 hits, struck out 188, and finished with a 2.91 ERA.
“I will take a shot at my dream of playing in the majors,” Yamaguchi told the Japan Times at a press conference in November. “I’d like to express my appreciation to Yomiuri Giants officials, manager Mr. (Tatsunori) Hara, my coaches, teammates and fans for the past three years.
“I will work even harder as I pursue a new challenge.”
Yamaguchi’s ability to pitch in multiple roles will assure him one of the 13 spots on Montoyo’s pitching staff, but his name will be among a growing glut of rotation candidates when pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin on Feb. 13.
Other than Tanner Roark and the $24-million deal handed to him by Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins at last week’s winter meetings in San Diego, there’s really no clear picture past that.
Veterans Chase Anderson and Matt Shoemaker seem locked into rotation spots, followed by a list that includes Yamaguchi and three players with starting experience in lefty Ryan Borucki and righties Trent Thornton and Jacob Waguespack.
Past that group of seven, there’s T.J. Zeuch and Anthony Kay, with Nate Pearson’s arrival looming, potentially in June or July.
Whether or not the Jays can add to the top of the rotation with one of few impact names left on the market remains to be seen.
Atkins is still chasing southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, but the asking price may be too much for the Blue Jays in the end, especially with both Los Angeles teams desperately seeking rotation help, while Dallas Keuchel could be in a similar spot when all is said and done.
Even if the Yamaguchi deal is more of a depth move than anything, the biggest impact could come from planting a Blue Jays flag in Japan, thus opening doors for future free agents to at least take a closer look at Toronto as a potential landing spot.
Led by Andrew Tinnish and Ryan Mittleman, the Jays scouted Asia aggressively this year and had shown limited interest in outfielder/first baseman Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who inked a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, as well as outfielder Shogo Akiyama, 31, who remains unsigned and presents an intriguing solution to their hole in centre field.
The Jays had also done background work on Korean-born left-hander Kwang-Hyun Kim, who agreed to a contract similar to Yamaguchi earlier this week, a two-year, $8-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.
It has been almost seven years since the Jays signed a Japanese player, inking colourful infielder Munenori Kawasaki (2013-15) to a minor-league deal in March of 2013.
Tomo Ohka (2007), Ryota Igarashi (2012) and Nori Aoki (2017) have also pulled on a Blue Jays uniform in the past.
Hockey Canada's strategy of deflecting serves no one but its disgraced leadership – The Globe and Mail
A while back, I had a job in a movie theatre. The theatre at the foot of an atrium in an open-plan tower. We plebs could look up at the offices and hallways above, where the corporation’s big wigs worked.
The biggest wig in our world would often lean over a balcony and stare down at us, like a gargoyle in pinstripes. If you were caught loafing, a call would be made and you’d hear about it.
One day, there was a commotion from several floors above – a lot of screaming and banging. The biggest wig had been fired. His reaction was to go back to his office and barricade himself inside it.
The banging was security kicking in the door. The screaming was him being dragged to the elevators. It was a different time.
But the lesson therein is timeless. Nobody likes being canned. But people in charge take it particularly hard.
Right now, 2½ months into Hockey Canada’s sex-abuse scandal, we’re at the barricade stage.
In any other country, this would be over now. Through a combination of popular outrage and political panic, the Hockey Canada edifice would have been burned to the ground.
But in this country we continue to believe shame will do the job for us. That the people in charge of this world-class gong show will get the message and slink off home.
But Hockey Canada’s leadership is not operating on Canadian rules. They’re pulling from the American handbook on how to survive a scandal. Shamelessness is a prerequisite.
Their first job was deflecting.
In terms of an absolute defence, the deflecting’s gone about as well as a guy trying to push off bullets by waving his hands around. But it bought time. The men in charge knew they could count on Ottawa to a) quickly promise to take decisive action and b) take absolutely forever to decide what that decisive action looks like.
Deflecting has another virtue – it dilutes outrage. No matter how awful, people can only read about a story for so long without becoming bored. And there’s always a fresh outrage to divert us.
This week, Hockey Canada hired someone to head an investigation into the workings of Hockey Canada. You could’ve written out this person’s CV long before the name was made public – retired judge, history of public service, member of the new Family Compact, etc.
Finding people is not hard. There are a whole bunch of them out there twiddling their thumbs, itching for someone to stick a microphone in front of them.
But after two months of withering pressure, Hockey Canada is just now figuring out who will set up the Slack group to discuss how to begin discussing their problems. Let me guess that if they’d been bleeding cash instead, organizing some sort of working committee would have taken two hours.
But this is how you do it, American-style. Pretend it’s a live broadcast with screen time to fill before commercials – stretch. Continue talking about nothing. Don’t stop speaking. It’s the silence that kills.
While you’re stretching, keep your eye on the horizon. That’s where the sports are. If you can make it to sports, you might be okay. The same people who wanted your head paraded in the town square yesterday might be distracted by a waving flag.
On Tuesday, the world junior hockey championship begins in Edmonton. Over the weekend, there will be a barrage of publicity about the tournament that launched a thousand official denials. We’ll rehash the particulars of this ugly affair and assess where we’re at. This column is part of that.
By Tuesday, the usual outlets will be talking about hockey. How’s Canada’s top line measuring up? Where’s the United States at? Whither the Olympic team?
This is how you erect a modern, media barricade.
Having seen a million of these things go down in recent years, you know you’re not going to talk your way out of your problem.
Bottom-line: You were in positions of authority at a public institution when something abhorrent happened. The integrity of that institution cannot be maintained if you continue to lead it.
This is obvious. But in our rush to definitively nail someone, anyone, we have skidded past the obvious. Now we’re all deep in the weeds, hacking away.
Uncovering the minutiae about who said what to whom at what board meeting may absorb reporters and politicians, but it only serves Hockey Canada’s current leadership.
While we’re Inspector Clouseau-ing this thing, we’re also avoiding the clear end point. The longer we spend doing that, the more likely it is that these fish all get off the hook.
This was the goal all along. Deflect, get to the world juniors, hope that Team Canada wins and that everyone is too exhausted by the end of it to keep taking pops at you. By the time your judge wraps up his report – let me guess ‘Mistakes were made but there is a clear plan forward’ – maybe you’ll have successfully run your gauntlet.
It’s not a plan, as such. As with Hockey Canada’s in-camera board meetings, nobody’s written it down. It’s instinctive process based on observation. In scandals as in sports, the mission is getting through today.
It’s not going to work. That’s also obvious. No matter what the eventual report says, it will reignite outrage.
The names of the players involved in the two alleged assaults will come out, probably during the NHL season. That will reignite outrage.
At any moment, the alleged victims could make fulsome public declarations. That will reignite outrage.
Any way you go, the outrage is going to leak out again. The only way to contain it is to blow this down to the foundations. Eventually, everyone’s going to realize that.
Really, all that’s being decided now is how you want to get to the elevators – walking under your own power, or being dragged there screaming by the rest of Canada.
Rafael Nadal announces he will not be playing at the Canadian Open
Nadal cited that the reason to abandon the Canadian Open was a result of an abundance of caution regarding injury concerns.
“From the vacation days and my subsequent return to training, everything has gone well these weeks. Four days ago, I also started training my serve and yesterday, after training, I had a little discomfort that was still there today.
We have decided not to travel to Montreal and continue with the training sessions without forcing ourselves. I sincerely thank the tournament director, Eugene, and his entire team for the understanding and support they have always shown me, and today was no exception.
I hope to play again in Montreal, a tournament that I love and that I have won five times in front of an audience that has always welcomed me with great affection. I have no choice but to be prudent at this point and think about health,” said the Spaniard.
Last month, Nadal was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semifinal against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic has also withdrawn from the Canadian Open as his status as unvaccinated against COVID-19 means he cannot enter the country.
Djokovic is also unlikely to play at the US Open after organizers said they would respect the American government rules over travel for unvaccinated players as the United States (US) requires non-citizens to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to enter.
“Per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are automatically entered into the men’s and women’s singles main draw fields based on ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.
The US Open does not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, but it will respect the US government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-US citizens,” read a statement from the US Open which is set to take place in New York from the 29th of August to the 11th of September, 2022.
Nevertheless, Novak Djokovic will be joining Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to play for Team Europe in the Laver Cup.
The event, which pits six European players against six from Team World over three days, will take place in London between 23 and 25 September 2022.
“It’s the only (event) where you play in a team with guys you are normally competing against. To be joining Rafa, Roger and Andy, three of my biggest all-time rivals, it’s going to be a truly unique moment in the history of our sport,” said Djokovic.
Canada beats Sweden to claim gold in Hlinka Gretzky Cup – Sportsnet.ca
RED DEER, Alta. — Canada scored early and often and also stayed out of the penalty box en route to a 4-1 victory over Sweden in the gold-medal final of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Tanner Howe, Ethan Gauthier, Calum Ritchie and Brayden Yager scored for the Canadians, who held period leads of 2-1 and 3-1 at the Peavey Mart Centrium on Saturday. Riley Heidt also chipped in with two assists for the champions.
Hugo Pettersson scored for Sweden, who were outshot 36-26. Each team received eight minutes in penalties.
Canada had beaten Sweden 3-0 on Aug. 3.
“Three weeks ago, we put this roster together and I felt right away this was a tight group,” said head coach Stephane Julien. “It’s not easy when you have this much talent, but everyone accepted their role and I’m so happy for them.”
The win is Canada’s first gold medal since 2018, the last time this tournament was held in Canada.
“I’m so happy for this group,” added Julien. “They haven’t had it easy in their careers the last two years with the pandemic, but now they have this, a gold medal and something they are going to remember for the rest of their career.”
Canada advanced to the final with a 4-1 win over Finland, while Sweden defeated Czechia 6-2. Finland beat Czechia 3-1 in Saturday’s bronze-medal final.
The Hlinka Gretzky Cup will shift to Europe in 2023, returning to Breclav and Piestany, Czechia for the first time since 2021.
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