They send us Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, and Yu Darvish.

We send them Brad Penny.

The former Dodgers righthander became the latest high-priced American-import bust in Japan, released by the Pacific League's Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Tuesday after appearing in just one game. That request came from the player.

In his one appearance, Penny gave up six runs, four earned, on seven hits while walking three in 31/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles on April 4. The 33-year-old, who signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Hawks in February, leaves with a 10.80 ERA.

Penny follows such stars as Kevin Mitchell and Joe Pepitone as failures in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Oddly, it's the guys who weren't big names who did well in Japan, including Tuffy Rhodes, Randy Bass, Alex Ramirez . . . and a slugger named Charlie Manuel.

Hit by Big Papi

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was unhurt after being involved in a car accident on his way to Fenway Park to prepare for a game with the Cleveland Indians on Friday afternoon.

"I lost a little control coming out of the gas station and I hit a car," Ortiz told Boston's WBZ-TV, "but I'm fine."

The driver of the other car and her passenger, a child in the back seat, were also OK, he told the Boston Herald. "The good thing is that there were no injuries. I talked to the lady that was driving. I don't think she knows me, at all. . . . They were just waiting for the light."

Now, Big Papi is hitting .352 with seven home runs, 23 RBIs - and one minivan.

Sign that kid up!

So it seems that an Arizona school run by a conservative breakaway Catholic sect forfeited a state charter school championship rather than play a team whose second baseman is a 15-year-old girl. She must be some ballplayer.

Paige Sultzbach tried out for Mesa Preparatory Academy baseball because the school has no softball team, and made the squad. She sat out two regular-

season games against Our Lady of Sorrows in deference to their policy prohibiting coed sports, but wasn't about to miss the title game. "She's glad that they are the state champions . . . but she wanted to play," her father told

Leaving aside issues of religion, politics, and gender - and forgetting that it's the 40th anniversary of Title IX - we can think of at least one local team in need of infield help with that kind of heart and determination.