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The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Friday revealed that three players, pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Nagasaka have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
According to the Hochi Shimbun, all three have been hospitalized. All have complained of a diminished sense of taste and smell, but have not developed fevers or coughs.
Last week, Nippon Professional Baseball’s teams agreed to announce whenever a player was tested or tested positive, and the three are the first pro ballplayers in Japan known to have been infected.
On Thursday the team announced that Fujinami had been tested for the virus, had all its facilities sanitized by people wearing hazmat suits and canceled a farm-team practice game scheduled that day.
The Central and Pacific leagues were originally scheduled to open for business on March 20, but Opening Day has been pushed back twice on account of the pandemic, first to April 10 and now to April 24, although that latter date seems as unrealistic as the first.
The 25-year-old Fujinami was having a promising spring after four seasons in a tailspin that started when Tomoaki Kanemoto took over as Tigers manager in 2016 for three years. Prior to that he had been a reliable starting pitcher after being the 2012 draft’s top pitching prize. Shohei Ohtani also went in that draft in the second round, because he had announced he would turn pro with a big league club.