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Former Cubs outfielder Murton at home in Japan

Former Cubs outfielder Murton at home in Japan

Former Chicago Cubs outfielder Matt Murton is a big hit in Japan.
In his first season with the Hanshin Tigers of the Central League, Murton is leading the league in batting average (.352) and hits (120).
A first-round selection of the Boston Red Sox in 2003, Murton went to the Cubs as part of the Nomar Garciaparra deal. He spent four seasons in Chicago from 2005 to 2008 and had brief stints with the Oakland Athletics and Colorado Rockies before coming to Japan this season.
Along with teammate Craig Brazell, who leads the league with 30 home runs, Murton was named to the Central League All-Star team.
"At 28, I'm young but I'm no longer a prospect," Murton said on Friday. "I knew that if I wanted to play every day I had to make a move. As it turns out, it's one of the best decisions I've ever made."
While there is still a long way to go, Murton is on pace for 219 hits this season, which would overtake Ichiro Suzuki for the Nippon Professional Baseball record of 210 achieved in 1994, though Ichiro did it in a 130-game season which has since been extended by 14 games.
The hits have made Murton and Brazell fan favorites at Hanshin's Koshien Stadium. The two have played a major role in helping the Tigers win seven of their last 11 games and move into second place, just 1- 1/2 games behind the Yomiuri Giants.
Murton began the season as Hanshin's leadoff hitter and later was moved by skipper Akinobu Mayumi to No. 3 in the batting order because of his solid clutch hitting. He already has two grand slams this season.
"It's a great honor," Murton said of making the all-star team. "I've been fortunate enough to be an all-star at every level I've played except the majors."
Not all former major leaguers have endeared themselves to Japanese fans with their hustle the way Murton has. In the past, many viewed Japanese baseball as a lesser version of MLB and weren't prepared to make the necessary adjustments.
That's not the case with Murton, who takes extensive notes on Japanese pitchers, much to the surprise of the Japanese media.
"They seem to find it interesting," Murton said. "But a lot of guys do it. I started out in the Red Sox organization where they stressed being able to understand each at-bat. It's just a comfort thing for me."