FULL COUNT: Boston looks strong; others have uncertain future in majors

Dodgers demoted closer Brandon League was left off L.A.’s playoff roster after posting a 5.30 ERA and five blown saves in 58 regular-season appearances. The tattooed reliever has two years left on his $22.5 million deal, so he will be in Dodger blue next season, but in what role is the question. He’s got to find the stuff that made him an All-Star in 2011.

Over in the ALCS the bearded Boston Red Sox have a 2-1 lead over the Detroit Tigers. Right-fielder Shane Victorino has a .400 OBP with three RBIs, three runs and two steals in seven post season games while setup man Junichi Tazawa has a 0.60 WHIP and three holds in six appearances, and closer Koji Uehara (1-1) has nine strikeouts in 6.1 innings and three saves. No pun intended, but Boston looks very strong.

Locally, the Athletics are not expected to pick up the 2014 option for catcher Kurt Suzuki, who was dealt back to Oakland prior to the August trade deadline in an effort to solidify the injury-plagued position. He made the playoff roster, but wasn’t used during the Athletics’ five-game ALDS loss to the Tigers. And with John Jaso, Stephen Vogt and Derek Norris returning there just isn’t a need for another catcher, but Suzuki will catch on somewhere else.

Meanwhile reliever Hideki Okajima and shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima have long been removed from the Athletics’ 40-man roster. Okajima appeared in five games during a brief call up, but Nakajima never reached the majors, spending the year in Triple-A Sacramento following injuries and soon wasn’t needed with the emergence of Jed Lowrie. Nakajima does have one-year left on his $6.5 million contract so he’s likely to get an invite to spring training next year, but Okajima turns 38 in December and might garner more interest from an NPB team in Japan.

Across the bay, the San Francisco Giants are not expected to bring back popular left fielder Kensuke Tanaka, currently a free agent, but are among the clubs scouting Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 this season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The Yankees seem to have the best chance of landing the ace.

Elsewhere, the Orioles will not pick up the $5 million option on left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, who has made $8.14 million over two seasons without throwing a single pitch in Baltimore because of an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery. He could be re-signed later at a minimum cost and tossed back into the mix.

Down in Arizona, injured Chicago Cubs closer Kyuji Fujikawa is progressing through his rehab stint and is now playing catch for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June. The right-hander appeared in 12 games before going on the disabled list in May. He signed a two-year, $9.5 million deal with Chicago in this spring, but most pitchers need two full years to fully recover. He’s 33, so don’t be overly optimistic about him returning to top form.
Strikeout champion Yu Darvish reportedly suffered through a nerve problem in his lower back pain causing numbness in his right leg that prevented him from making it past the sixth inning of his final three starts for Texas. Not to worry, Darvish has the entire off-season to recover before spring training.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, writes from San Francisco. Follow him @drewmorita or e-mail him at drew_morita@yahoo.com.

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