Sunday’s showdown between the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and the Mariners’ Hisashi Iwakuma will be the first-ever matchup in the majors between two former Japanese league teammates, writes Ryan Hatch of NJ.com. The two ex-Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were supposed to face one another in 2014, but rain prevented that from happening. Regarding Iwakuma, Tanaka said, “There’s a little cultural difference. He’s older than [I am], so, I look up to him…He was the ace of the staff [in Japan]. I learned a lot from him…you know, strategies, and facing batters. Stuff like that.” Interestingly, the 35-year-old Iwakuma and Tanaka, 27, have posted nearly identical ERAs (3.18 to 3.17) since emigrating from Japan. Iwakuma debuted in the majors two years earlier (2012 versus 2014), so his success has come over 363 2/3 more innings than Tanaka’s total.
- In other news regarding Japanese starters, Rangers ace Yu Darvish threw a live batting practice session Sunday and will engage in another Thursday before beginning a rehab assignment with Double-A Frisco on or near April 26, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). Darvish is recovering from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to miss all of last season. His 50-pitch BP session Sunday drew raves from pitching coach Doug Brocail, tweets the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant. “The breaking ball was crisp. The slider was unbelievable,” Brocail said. “The fastball was good and hard with both two- and four-seamers. He threw strikes in a lot of good areas. As we measured it, there were a lot of 0-2 and 1-2 counts.” A May 11 return to the Rangers could be within reach for Darvish if all goes well during his rehab stint, per Grant.
- Thanks in part to a disastrous showing as a left fielder last season, the Red Sox’s Hanley Ramirez was among the league’s least valuable players during his first year in Boston. But the Red Sox like what they’ve seen this year from Ramirez, who is now their first baseman. “We have a different player,” manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). “He’s in a good place,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said (link via Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald). In addition to finding a more suitable position, Ramirez has shown signs of life offensively, slashing .293/.318/.463 in 44 plate appearances. A shoulder injury helped lead to an uncharacteristically poor season at the plate in 2015 for Ramirez, who hit .249/.291/.426 in 430 PAs.
- Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis – who underwent left shoulder surgery in November – will take the field for live batting practice off a coach for the first time this year Monday, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. Meanwhile, lefty Franklin Morales is better after feeling “weakness” in his shoulder earlier this month and will begin a throwing program Monday, Davidi reports (on Twitter).
- The Indians are expected to activate right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall on Wednesday after he plays a pair of rehab games with Double-A Akron on Monday and Tuesday, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com was among those to report (Twitter link). Upon returning, Chisenhall – who has been on the disabled list since March with a left wrist injury – will vie for playing time in an Indians outfield that has mostly used Rajai Davis, Marlon Byrd and Jose Ramirez so far this year.