FULL COUNT: Dice K and Okajima return


Boston outfielder Shane Victorino is eager to represent the U.S. in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. He’s set to leave Red Sox camp on March 3 to join Team USA in Arizona. Meanwhile, his teammate and relief pitcher Koji Uehara will likely open the season as the primary set-up man for closer Joel Hanrahan. But don’t be surprised if at some point this season Uehara is handing the ball to his countryman Junichi Tazawa, who has the tools needed to be a dominant major league closer.

Two-time World Baseball Classic MVP Daisuke Mastuzaka agreed to a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians on Feb. 10. The 32-year-old will receive a $1.5 million, one-year deal if he makes the 40-man roster. Dice-K was the ace for new Indians manager Terry Francona in Boston when they won the World Series in 2007. An elbow injury in 2011 has limited him to just 18 starts since. He’s competing for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring.

Former Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima signed a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics on Feb. 12. The 37-year-old will contend for a spot in a bullpen already packed with lefties. However the former all-star’s postseason experience and sharp curveball make him a strong candidate to crack the opening day roster. He recorded a 0.94 ERA in 56 relief appearances and nine saves last season for the SoftBank Hawks. Okajima can request his release if he is not on the big league squad by June 1.

A’s shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima drew praise from manager Bob Melvin for his defense and batting practice this week during Spring Training. The starting job is essentially his to lose over the coming weeks. The 30-year-old was signed in December to solidify the six spot, which saw five different players combine for 17 errors and a deplorable .203 batting average in 2012. Nakajima is a career .302 hitter.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi is trying to land a job in the bullpen after signing a minor league deal on Jan. 31. The 34-year-old has pitched for Chiba Lotte and the Hanshin Tigers in his five-year career.

Chicago Cubs right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa is currently the primary set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol in camp. The highly touted 32-year-old was the premier closer in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers, where he was a four-time all-star. His teammate and lefty specialist Hisanori Takahashi has an outside chance to make the opening day roster while second baseman Darwin Barney is working on improving his .254 batting average and .299 on-base percentage.

Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish appeared without his trademark orange highlights on the opening day of camp, sporting short black hair instead. The 26-year-old is eager to start the 2013 campaign.
New York Yankees pitcher Hiroki Kuroda turned 38 on Feb. 10 and is locked in as the No. 2 starter.

Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Norichika Aoki will reportedly get a chance to lead-off this spring.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco.

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