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Browsing Posts tagged Josh Whitesell

Shocker! Kevin Youkilis to play in Japan

By Scott Barancik, editor

Free agent Kevin Youkilis has covered a lot of ground the past two seasons, playing for A.L. teams in Boston, Chicago, and New York.

This time, he’s moving a little farther afield: Japan. The three-time All-Star, 34, has signed a one-year, $4-million deal to play for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, the defending Japanese champion.

“He’s looking at this as a terrific life experience for his family,” agent Joe Bick said. Youkilis‘ wife and two children, ages 7 and 1, will spend the season with him.

Youkilis — who played just 28 games for the New York Yankees in an injury-plagued 2013 season — will be at least the fifth Jewish major leaguer to play in Japan. He is preceded by Micah Franklin, Gabe Kapler, Richie Scheinblum and Josh Whitesell. reported that Youkilis had “received interest from eight or nine Major League clubs” but had been in talks with the Golden Eagles for several weeks.

Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka, who recorded an astounding 24-0 record in 2013, has been the subject of fevered speculation recently in the States. A number of Major League clubs have expressed interest in signing him, but the Golden Eagles have yet to decide whether to allow it.

“Rakuten” is an Internet shopping company. The baseball team is located in Sendai, in the Tohoku region of Japan. The Golden Eagles’ stadium was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami there in 2011.

Like Youkilis, Tampa Bay Rays free agent Sam Fuld reportedly has received interest from Japanese teams about the 2014 season.

Kapler, who overlapped with Youkilis in Boston from 2004-06 and spent part of the 2005 season playing for the Yomiuri Giants, tweeted Friday that he “had a good talk with Youkilis re Japan. He’s excited about something completely new in his life. Amazing cultural opportunity for Yoooouuk!”

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Syracuse Chiefs 1B Josh Whitesell is leaving the team mid-season to play for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Whitesell, who batted cleanup for the Chiefs (AAA/Washington Nationals) and led the team with 34 RBIs and 29 walks, reportedly will be paid 30-million yen for the remainder of the Swallows’ season, or roughly $327,000. He will be competing for the first-base slot with Jamie D’Antona, like Whitesell a former Arizona Diamondback:

Quickly skimming through Whitesell’s Wikipedia profile reveals some similarities between D’Antona and Whitesell. They are both tall, 28-year-old first basemen that made their Major League debut in 2008 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2009, D’Antona signed with the Swallows, while Whitesell bounced between AAA and the Major Leagues. Whitesell put up some impressive numbers in AAA, but failed to replicate those results in the Majors. After the 2009 season, Whitesell was not resigned by the Diamondbacks, and he signed a minor league contract with the Washington Nationals.

Earlier today (6/7/2010), a Chiefs spokesman told Jewish Baseball News that Whitesell had signed a contract with the Swallows but that it would require approval by Major League Baseball.

Whitesell’s departure marks a loss not only for the Chiefs but Jewish baseball fans in the U.S. His strong performance this season made him a somewhat likely candidate to join the Nationals when the team’s roster expands from 25 players to 40.

On the other hand, iif Whitesell performs well for the Swallows, his odds of landing a Major League job next season may improve.

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Josh Whitesell may be headed to Japan

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, who will make his MLB debut Tuesday (6/8/2010) for the Washington Nationals, isn’t the only player leaving the AAA Syracuse Chiefs.

First baseman Josh Whitesell, the team’s cleanup hitter, reportedly has signed a contract to play in Japan.

It’s bad news for the Chiefs, who saw Whitesell hit .301 and lead the team with 34 RBIs. But it’s a smart move for the 28-year-old North Carolina native, who presumably will earn a big paycheck while putting himself on the radar of other MLB clubs.

Whitesell was the AAA Pacific Coast League’s rookie of the year in 2008, with 26 home runs, 110 RBIs and a .328 batting average. He spent part of 2009 with the Arizona Diamondbacks but hit just .194 in 108 at-bats there.

On Thursday (6/3/2010), Strasburg’s final game with the Chiefs, Whitesell went 2-for-4 with a double.

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Morning Roundup

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The latest developments among Jews with bats:

  • Jason Hirsh, starting pitcher for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (AAA), continued his  turnaround Thursday (5/13/2010) with a 7-3 victory against the Columbus Clippers. A 6’8″, 250-pound former major leaguer who began the season with three consecutive losses, Hirsh pitched six innings against Columbus, giving up three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out four. The fourth straight win improved his 2010 record to 4-and-3.
  • The St. Louis Cardinals recently promoted CF James Rapoport to their AAA squad. In six games with the Memphis Redbirds, Rapoport has had three multi-hit games and is hitting .296.
  • SP Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, continued his remarkable first season in the minors Wednesday (5/12/2010) with a 6-inning, no-hit outing for the Syracuse Chiefs (AAA). Strasburg, who is not Jewish, may have dominated media coverage of the game, but teammate Josh Whitesell helped seal the Chief’s 4-1 victory over the Norfolk Tides with a three-run triple in the 5th inning.
  • Florida International University standout Garrett Wittels reportedly is headed to Alaska this summer. According to this article, Wittels — currently enjoying a 43-game hitting streak at FIU — will play for the Peninsula Oilers of the Alaska Baseball League, a six-team summer league. Peninsula is based in Kenai, Alaska.
  • Washington Nationals SP Jason Marquis had surgery on his elbow Friday (5/14/2010). Marquis, who had bone chips in the elbow, is expected to begin rehab immediately and begin making minor-league rehab appearances in four to six weeks.

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Who’ll the majors call up next?

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — New York Mets 1B Ike Davis was the first Jewish player called up from AAA this season. Who will be the second?

You’d have to know a lot more about MLB depth charts than I do to make a truly educated guess. Being psychic helps, too; unexpected injuries often are the catalyst for calling up a player. (Mets 1B Daniel Murphy’s injury helped bring Ike Davis to Queens, for example.)

But player performance obviously matters, too. Here’s how AAA Jews are doing through Wednesday’s (5/5/2010) games:

  • Scot Drucker, 27, relief pitcher with the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers). Has a 2-and-1 record with 1 save, 9 walks, 13 strikeouts and a 1.83 ERA.
  • Sam Fuld, 28, left fielder with the Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs). Batting .179 with 1 RBI and a .333 on-base percentage.
  • Ben Guez, 23, center fielder with the Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers). Batting .128 with 2 RBIs and a .244 OBP.
  • Jason Hirsh, 28, starting pitcher with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees (New York Yankees). Has a 2-and-3 record with 12 walks, 17 strikeouts and a 3.06 ERA.
  • Adam Stern, 30, left fielder with the Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers). Batting .227 with 1 RBI and a .292 OBP.
  • Josh Whitesell, 28, first baseman with the Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals). Batting .253 with four homers, 18 RBIs and a .377 OBP.

As a whole, Jews aren’t exactly tearing up AAA. The player closest to being on a hot streak these days is Hirsh, a former Houston Astro and Colorado Rockie who has pitched two consecutive one-hitters, including this near no-hitter.

I hadn’t noticed until today, but AAA is a little less Jewish these days. The Columbus Clippers (San Francisco Giants) released left fielder Brian Horwitz, 30, in late April.

— Scott Barancik

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