All posts by Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

NPB eyes opening to fans from July 10

In a show of cautious optimism considering the resurgent number of coronavirus infections in a nation that has seriously avoided testing, Atsushi Saito, the commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball on Monday told reporters Japan’s two leagues would look to admit fans to its parks from July 10, the Hochi Shimbun reported Monday.

Link to my NPB coronavirus timeline.

After meeting online in a liaison conference with counterparts from pro soccer’s J-League and public health experts, Saito said that, government guidance permitting, up to 5,000 fans will be admitted to games from July 10.

“We believe we will be able to open the doors to fans from July 10,” Saito told reporters in an online press conference, four days after NPB’s 12 teams began their regular season three months late due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

If conditions permit, the clubs hope to admit crowds up to half of their parks capacity from Aug. 1.

Confirmed new infections in Japan by date

Data provided by the ministry of health labor and welfare.

Confirmed new infections in Japan bottomed out around 20 on May 25, when the government announced the state of emergency would be lifted nationwide, and NPB announced its season would start on June 19. Since then the daily new infection rates have rebounded slightly to 40 to 60 per day.

Although a majority of people are still wearing masks, restaurants, food shops, and bars that had been shuttered or empty are now filling up, with people crowded together.

All NPB players, team and field staff were tested prior to Opening Day and no new infections were announced.

Japan’s principle means of interdicting new cases is not increased testing as was promised after the Olympics were postponed in March but to restrict entry to Japan to citizens. Non-citizens, including permanent residents, some who have lived their entire lives in Japan are not currently allowed to enter the country.

Silence is not golden

Playing baseball in empty stadiums that would normally be filled with non-stop chanting and noise-making means hearing virtually everything. You can hear the coaches complain about the umpires, the players’ chatter, and as Chunichi Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda and his Yakult Swallows counterpart Shingo Takatsu discovered this weekend at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, the broadcasters.

The Nikkan Sports reported Sunday that prior to the start of the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, Yoda came out for a word with home plate umpire Tetsuya Shimada, who then approached the Swallows bench for a word with Takatsu, and pointed up at the broadcast booths as they spoke.

“From the broadcast booth could be heard ‘The catcher is setting up inside,'” manager Yoda said, according to a Dragons official.

The broadcast booths at the small park are not far from home plate and their voices could be heard on the field without fans making the ubiquitous noise.

Central League administrator Kazuhide Kinefuchi said according to the Dragons, “We have to look out for this at every park and correct it immediately.

Takatsu appeared to hear it as well, the umps said.

“He could hear something. The pitch locations or something like it.”

Until about 10 years ago, NPB had a similar issue. Teams used the big screens at the ballpark to show replays of their player’s swings when the home team was batting. Every fair or foul ball would be replayed, with the result that the home team batters could see where the opposing catchers were setting up.

Former Fighters pitcher Carlos Mirabal said those two things are apples and oranges.

“(It being on the screen) to me doesn’t matter, because the players would always go in the training room and ask someone who was watching the game where the pitch was or any other question,” Mirabal said.

“If it’s right before the pitcher throws the pitch, then that’s no good.”

NPB 2020 6-21 live

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.


For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

Return to TOP

Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0

NPB 2020 6-20 live

Before the nitty gritty about today’s live blog, here are some other NPB quick hits.

Baby shark warning

367 days after he introduced the Baby Shark to Washington Nationals fans, Gerardo Parra hit his first regular season home run in Japan in the Yomiuri Giants’ 11-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers. We don’t know what the Giants players were doing during their layoff but they apparently had been doing their baby shark homework assignments.

Yamada 28, 29 and counting

Tetsuto Yamada is going to have to hustle to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a 120-game season, but he’s off to a good start. He hit his second home run on Saturday and grabbed his first stolen base in Yakult’s 6-2 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

The Swallows second baseman is the only player in NPB history with more than one season with a .300-plus average, and 30 or more steals and home runs. This accomplishment of .3, 30, 30 is mangled in Japanese as the “Triple Three.” Yamada has done it three times.

Kyodo News’ coverage of Saturday’s games.

Suzuki goes deep twice

Although scouts have been salivating over the possibility of Yamada playing in the majors, more of them seem certain that the other guy with two homers this year, Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp will go.

Here’s my profile of the Carp outfielder

Suzuki homered twice on Saturday in a 10-5 win over the DeNA BayStars. Veteran minor league pitcher Michael Peoples allowed one run over six innings and striking out seven for the BayStars.

Wada strong, but Hawks lose

Former Chicago Cub Tsuyoshi Wada struck out seven, while allowing a run over 6-1/3 innings–on a leadoff homer by former Yankee Brandon Laird in the second–in the Hawks’ 3-2 loss to the Lotte Marines. Former Cleveland Indians reliever Frank Herrmann picked up the in relief.

The balls are jumping, but

Home runs have not been more frequent this year than they were over the same period last year. Last year, there were 29 hit out over 215 innings. Although two pitchers homered on Friday, there have been 21 over 216 2/3 innings the first two days of the 2020 season.

Lions Fighters live blog June 20, 2020

Switching to the Pacific League today and the Lions-Fighters game from empty MetLife Dome.Top of 1st

Wataru Matsumoto on the mound for the Lions. According to Delta Graphs, he gave up 29. 1 percent hard contact last year, 2nd best among Lions pitchers with 50-plus innings, but had the fourth-worst DER behind him (.692). Flyball pitcher primarily fastball, cutter, split last year.

Top 1st

  1. Haruki Nishikawa strikes out on a steady diet of fastballs to open the game.
  2. Taishi Ota singles, hits a cutter away off the end of the bat.
  3. Kensuke Kondo strikes out swinging at a 3-3 fastball, Ota caught stealing for the DP.

Bottom 1st

Fighters starter Takayuki Kato played an important role as a rookie in 2016, when the Fighters starting rotation was without Shohei Ohtani for much of the summer. Kato, the second pick the previous autumn, went 7-3 as the Fighters won the PL pennant and the Japan Series.

He’s a lefty with a low-velocity(137 kph avg) fastball and has thrown about every pitch in the book

  1. Corey Spangenberg strikes out on five pitches, slider, slider, splitter, fastball and splitter out of the zone.
  2. Sosuke Genda, LHB, strikes out swinging at a high 1-2 fastball away after being set up with a slider and a curve out of the zone.
  3. Tomoya Mori, last year’s PL MVP, lays off three two-strike pitches away and singles off a 3-3 fastball.
  4. Hotaka Yamakawa, the 2018 MVP and two-time defending PL home run champ flies out on a 1-0 fastball away.

Top 2nd

  1. Sho Nakata, the biggest power threat in the Fighters lineup since the departure of Ohtani (Angels) and Brandon Laird (Lotte Marines) refused to chase three out of the zone but flies out on a low 145-kph fastball. Matsumoto is throwing harder today than he did for most of his 2019 rookie season.
  2. Wang Po-Jung flies out on a first-pitch curve in the zone.
  3. Ryo Watanabe, one of the big surprises for the Fighters last year, again declines to chase three pitches out of the zone but grounds a 3-1 fastball to short.

Bottom 2nd

  1. Shuta Tonosaki swings at the first two strikes he sees and knocks the second, a 1-1 fastball over the fence in left center.
  2. Takeya Nakamura takes two inside fastballs for strikes before missing a splitter out of the zone
  3. Takumi Kuriyama, who is along with Giants outfielder Yoshiyuki Kamei, one of the favorite veteran grinders of the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast. He fouls off a pair of two-strike pitches before singling on the eighth pitch.
  4. The plate discipline theme is in mid-season form as Lions No. 8 hitter Fumikazu Kimura walks on six pitches.
  5. Yuji Kaneko hits a potential double play grounder to second, but Watanabe fumbles it and they can only get the force.
  6. With two out and runners on the corners, Spangenberg grounds a first-pitch fastball to second.

Top 3rd

  1. Kazunari Ishii flies out on a curve. Seeing quite a few from Matsumoto today.
  2. Yuki Nomura, who was born in the States, and made his top-flight debut on Friday and went 0-for-2, walks.
  3. Catcher Yushi Shimizu grounds into a double play, something the Lions were pretty good at on defense last year.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Genda flies out on five pitches.
  2. Mori flies out to center
  3. Yamakawa singles on a 3-2 splitter that Kato leaves up and over the plate.
  4. Sotozaki walks on five pitches.
  5. Nakamura strikes out, again, on a split out of the zone, again.

Top 4th

  1. Nishikawa opens with a single when Matsumoto misses up and in with a fastball.
  2. Matsumoto strikes out Ota with a big beautiful curve that drops out of the zone.
  3. Kensuke Kondo, who walks as much as anyone in Japan, took four and is on first base, inviting a mound meeting.
  4. It didn’t produce the desired results. Nakata goes with a straight 1-0 fastball away and drives it off the top of the wall in right for a two-run double. Fighters 2, Lions 1. This ends 12 scoreless innings by the Fighters to open the season.
  5. Wang strikes out swinging at a splitter that had virtually no spin on it. If they weren’t prevented from licking the ball, I’d be suspicious of that one.
  6. Watanabe walks and the Lions bench is restless.
  7. But Matsumoto escapes further damage against Watanabe, who can’t handle a pair of high-inside fastballs and pops out.

Bottom 4th

  1. Kuriyama leads it off for the Lions with a walk. It’s not really a surprise that guys are having trouble locating. They typically enter the season after nearly two months of bullpens and preseason games. This year they started with that, then stopped, and went back to work at the end of May.
  2. Kimura gets jammed on a fastball and flies out.
  3. Kaneko pokes a fastball away into right and there’s two on.
  4. Spangenberg up. Kato throws low 3/4 and when he throws his splitter away to lefties, it looks a lot like the slider, but Spangenberg is able to foul those off. He has no answer for the slider away though, and goes down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Nomura pops out to first on the first pitch.
  2. Shimizu pops out to short as Matsumoto is using the fastball-cutter combination to miss barrels.
  3. Nishikawa completes the game of “Three Flies out” by popping out to second on a high fastball.

Bottom 6th

New pitcher for Nippon Ham. 28-year-old right-hander Shota Tamai, who pitched in 65 games last season. Fastball, two-seamer, cutter, curve. Has had his best results with a shoot (essentially a reverse cutter) and the cutter last year.

  1. Mori strikes out looking at 2-2 fastball that nails the bottom of the zone.
  2. After four outside pitches to the right-handed-hitting Yamakawa, Tamai gets him on an inside fastball.
  3. A 2-1 fastball runs in on Tonosaki and he also grounds it to third, where the 19-year-old Nomura makes a nice grab and throws on the run.

Top 6th

  1. Matsumoto, among the league leaders in infield fly percentage last year, gets his fifth straight to open the sixth as Ota flies out to first.
  2. Kondo, who drew 103 walks last year, draws his third of the year.
  3. Nakata flies out to left.
  4. Wang grounds to first.

Bottom 6th

  1. Nakamura avoids striking out for the third time by popping up a 143-kph first-pitch fastball from Tamai to second.
  2. Kuriyama singles singles to right.
  3. Kimura watches three running fastballs before flying out on a cutter.
  4. Kaneko flies out to left to end an easy inning for Tamai.

Top 7th

  1. Watanabe draws a 6-pitch leadoff walk on Matsumoto’s 90th pitch.
  2. Ishii smashes a grounder to first after costing himself two strikes trying to bunt.
  3. That’s all for Matsumoto. Stocky, hard-throwing righty Kaima Taira comes in to face Nomura, who hits a low fastball on the screws but straight to Tonosaki at second.
  4. No. 9 hitter Shimizu strikes out looking at slider.

Bottom 7th

Time for the Lions “Lucky 7th.” With no fans in the park, the scoreboard is showing fans on a streaming app singing the Lions’ team song, while the mascots and cheer leaders perform.

Lefty Katsuhiko Kumon up for the Fighters, with Spangenberg probably happy not to see anymore of Kato’s sliders leading off.

  1. Unfortunately, the new import doesn’t have any more luck with Kumon’s slider than he did Kato’s, and goes down swinging for the third time, low and away.
  2. Genda walks to put the tying run on base.
  3. Mori flies out to center after Genda steals second.
  4. Yamakawa up, but the lefty gets him to hit the first pitch to Nomura at third. Inning over.
And Hotaka Yamakawa cleans up on the piano as well.

Top 8th

Trailing by a run, the Lions bring in Tetsu Miyagawa to make his pro debut. The 24-year-old righty was the Lions’ top draft pick last autumn out of corporate league club Toshiba.

  1. Nishikawa flies out on a 2-1 fastball.
  2. Ota, who was a No. 1 draft pick in his previous existence as the Yomiuri Giants “Next Hideki Matsui” fans on some nasty sliders.
  3. Kono gets ahead in the count before smashing a ball off the rookie pitcher’s glove for an infield single — fun fact: pitchers in Japan get no assist when the ball comes off their glove or body on a ground out.
  4. Miyagawa is trying to paint corners, and walks Nakata on five pitches.
  5. More avoidance of the strike zone brings pitching coach Fumiya Nishiguchi to the mound as Wang walks and the bases are loaded with two outs for Watanabe.
  6. Watanabe hits a shot back to Miyagawa, who knocks it down and ends the inning.

Bottom 8th

Naoki Miayanishi, the Fighters veteran lefty middle reliever is on.

  1. Sotozaki strikes out swinging at a high backdoor slider from Miyanishi.
  2. Nakamura also strikes out on a pitch away after Miyanishi plays cat and mouse with umpire Kazuhiro Kobayashi, who isn’t inclined to cut the lefty any slack on that side till a 3-1 fastball misses completely and Miyanishi gets one on credit. Nakamura then swings at Miyanishi’s 3-2 pitch just as far out of the zone away and misses.
  3. Kuriyama strokes a single to right but is called out trying to steal. Shimizu bounces the throw, but Kuriyama’s wheels aren’t what they were 11 years ago, when he last stole 10 bases in a season, and he’s out after a video request.

Top 9th

Second-year right-hander Ryosuke Moriwaki up for Seibu.

  1. Ishii lines out to first.
  2. Nomura flies out center.
  3. Shimizu doubles to the warning track in left.
  4. Nishikawa up with a chance to purchase some insurance with a base hit but walks on seven pitches. Two on for Ota.
  5. Moriwaki balks on a 0-2 pitch to Ota, both runners advance. He’s called for not pausing three seconds. Ota grounds to third and is ruled safe at first as Shimizu crosses the plate. The call is overturned on appeal and we go to the bottom of the ninth with the Fighters leading 2-1.

At least until 2019, NPB owners were too cheap to give the umpires real TV monitors to view the replays, forcing them to use these 8″ portable monitors, which resulted in the fans in the stands getting a better view of the play than the umps under the stands did.

Bottom 9th

Right-handed side-armer Ryo Akiyoshi, acquired from Yakult after the only poor season of his career in 2018, became the Fighters’ closer ikn 2019 and saved 25 games. He’s on now looking for Save No. 1.

  1. Kimura flies out on a 2-2 slider away to open the inning.
  2. Kaneko battles and battles and battles before watching a backdoor slider cross the plate for Strike 3.
  3. And for the first time in the game, Spangenberg gets to face a right-hander, but strikes (again) although this one was in the dirt.

Final score: Fighters 2, Lions 1

Haruki Ishikawa, whose hit was the 1,000th of his career is sporting his “1,000 hits” T-shirt for his post-game hero interview.

NPB 2020: June 20

Day 1 is in the books, so here are the announced starting pitchers for Saturday, June 20 in Nippon Professional Baseball:

Saturday’s starters

Live blog of Lions-Fighters game

Pacific League

Lions vs Fighters at MetLife Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Wataru Matsumoto vs Takayuki Kato

Buffaloes vs Eagles at Kyocera Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Daiki Tajima vs Yuki Matsui

Hawks vs Marines at PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Tsuyoshi Wada vs Atsuki Taneichi

Central League

Giants vs Tigers at Tokyo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kazuto Taguchi vs Yuta Iwasada

Swallows vs Dragons at Jingu Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yasuhiro Ogawa vs Kazuki Yoshimi

BayStars vs Carp at Yokohama Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

MICHAEL PEOPLES vs Hiroki Tokoda

Opening Day Live Blog Swallows vs Dragons

OK, so the Swallows and Dragons were not on the ballot because of the rain, but if they’re going to play, and I can’t sit in the cramped Jingu pressbox, that’s where we’ll start.

Not on the agenda was the Seibu Lions home game against the Nippon Ham Fighters, where Zach Neal issued three walks in a game for just the second time in Japan but still threw six shutout innings.

His hero interview is HERE.

Top of 1st

Swallows starter Masanori Ishikawa has had a couple of monster Opening Days, but after getting two easy outs in the first, the Dragons two big foreign hitters put the visitors on top. (Can we call a foul catch by Munetaka Murakami an easy out? He’s playing at third base for goodness sakes) Beautiful hitting by Zoilo Almonte, who missed most of last season, followed by a drive into the stands by Dayan Viciedo.

Bottom of 1st

Tomotaka Sakaguchi, one of the guys who has famously had a productive career after escaping Orix — I believe he threatened to dig a tunnel out of Kyocera Dome, beats out an infield single. Tetsuto Yamada then puts an easy swing on a fastball from Yudai Ono and lofts it over the wall in left center. The only player in NPB history to hit .300 with 30 homers and 30 steals more than once will have a tough job doing for the 4th time considering there’s only 120 games to work with, but gets a nice start.

Norichika Aoki follows with a double to left that Almonte is slow to get to and scores on a single by Murakami. The Swallows load the bases but Ono gets out of jai.

Top of 2nd

Nine pitches and Ishikawa is done in the 2nd, leaving the pitcher Ono to lead off the Dragons’ third.

Bottom of 2nd

Nice diving stop from second baseman Toshiki Abe gives Ono a 1-2-3 second. This guy’s career was going NOWHERE until Tsuyoshi Yoda took over as Dragons manager last year and took this guy who’d basically done nothing on the first team and the farm. He makes contact and he can play defense. Last year, the balls he hit found lots of holes and his numbers made him look like an all-star.

Top of 3rd

Singles by leadoff man Yohei Oshima and a little ground single again to the right side from Zoilo Almonte, who has apparently been picking up tips from Chunichi’s masters of slap-hitting zen, give Chunichi an opportunity as the rain picks up. Ishikawa, however, escapes trouble as Aoki gloves the final out after circumnavigating left field as only he can do.

Bottom of 3rd

The ground crew was out doing damage control between innings, as nobody wants to give away a game this year when makeups may be impossible.

I swear Yakult’s Takahiro Shiomi looks so much like Aoki as a hitter, that I have to do a double take to see if Aoki hasn’t started switch-hitting.

Top of 4th

After Ono cruised through the bottom of the third, allowing only an opposite-field flair, it’s Ishikawa’s turn. At 1.67 meters, Ishikawa is one of the shortest pitchers in NPB. The lefty came up just short of turning two hits into outs as Shuhei Takahashi bounces one over the mound and up the middle for a leadoff single.

Abe lines a high 2-0 fastball away down the right field line for a double, and Yota Kyoda ties it with a foul sac fly to Aoki. Alcides Escobar grabs a ground ball on the next play, fires behind Abe at second in plenty of time, but Yamada waits for the runner to slide into his tag and he fails to comply. First video request for me this season comes up empty for new Swallows skipper Shingo Takatsu.

Bottom of 4th

Longtime Eagle captain Motohiro Shima doubles off the top of the wall, and Ishikawa bunts him to third, giving Yakult a chance to end this after 4-1/2 innings. Sakaguchi smokes a pitch low out of the zone and rips it up the middle for RBI single and Yakult is up 4-3 with one out and and a man on.

Aoki goes deep off a lefty and its 6-3 Swallows. That was his 111th career home run in Japan and like a lot of the balls we saw going out in practice games, it didn’t look he had much energy on that swing. It was his 27th off a lefty but only his first off Ono.

Top of 5th

It’s really raining and looks like they shouldn’t be playing but Ishikawa gets into a two-out jam on a Viciedo single and a Takahashi double. But Murakami, probably the worst fielding first baseman in Japan last year, stabs a ball at third and throws Abe out to end the inning. Ishikawa, who has never completed his first start of the season, pumps his fist but the umps play on so he won’t go the distance this time either.

Bottom of 5th

We’re into the bullpen now, with Ono gone after 83 pitches. Right-hander Katsuki Matayoshi allows a two-out single to Escobar, but nothing else.

Top of 6th

And who cares about the rain?

After facing 24 batters and throwing 84 pitches, Ishikawa is gone in favor of lefty Yuki Hasegawa, who promptly gives up a leadoff double to Kyoda and a single by catcher Takuma Kato. Nobumasa Fukuda, the Dragons’ top pinch-hitter bats for Matayoshi and pops up. I have no idea why it is, but NPB hitters don’t suffer the same pinch-hitting penalty that Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin documented regarding major leaguers in “The Book.”

Yohei Oshima grounds into a force out as Kyoda scores from third, Swallows 6 Dragons 4. Right-hander Noboru Shimizu in to face Ryosuke Hirata, who pops up to the catcher, Shima and it’s time for more joy in mudville as the umps say play on.

Bottom of 6th

The hardest throwing pitcher we’ve seen so far tonight is on, Chunichi right-hander Hiroshi Suzuki. Good movement on his cutter and his four-seamer. Still, he surrenders a leadoff pinch-hit single to Takeshi Miyamoto. Takahashi falls behind 3-0 to Sakaguchi then throws three straight near the bottom of the strike zone where with some charity from home plate ump Masaharu Kasahara, gets Sakaguchi to ground out.

It may be the middle of June but Takahashi’s location looks like he hasn’t pitched in a while.. He walks Yamada and it’s two on and one out for Aoki, who gets ahead before striking out on a low fastball.

Murakami, however, singles in Miyamoto and its a 7-4 Swallows.

Top of 7th

Elsewhere, the first appearance by Orix’s bullpen proves disastrous, as 12 Rakuten batters put up eight runs in the eighth in Osaka to break up a 1-1 game.

At Jingu, 21-year-old righty Yugo Umeno is on for Yakult. He had a very respectable 2019 in middle relief, pitching in 68 games last season. But ANOTHER good at-bat by Almonte results in a single and a four-pitch walk to Viciedo puts the tying run at the plate with no outs.

A beautiful swing from Shuhei Takahashi plants a double into the gap in right and only Jingu’s infield mud hazard prevents Viciedo from scoring. He does come home, when Abe puts the ball in play and grounds into the first out.

A nice swing by Yota Kyoda on a decent low fastball singles home the tying run and its 7-up. That’s followed by a straight one that substitute catcher Takuya Kinoshita lines to right and Umeno is done.

Bottom of 7th

Right-hander Daisuke Sobue allowed Alcides Escobar’s second single of the game but nothing else in a scoreless inning. Alas for a pitcher whose name sounds like “subway,” the Dragons reliever comes nearly straight over the top when he should be serving up submarine deliveries.

Top of 8th

Scottt McGough, who had a strong 2019 debut season with the Swallows, strikes out two in a scoreless eighth.

Bottom of 8th

Cuban right-hander Raidel Martinez got Yamada to hit into a double play and erase Sakaguchi after the leadoff man open with a single in a scoreless inning against the top of the Swallows lineup.

Top of 9th

Taishi Ishiyama delivers Yakult’s second 1-2-3 inning of the game..

Bottom of 9th

… only for Hiroto Fuku to do the same in the home half and send this puppy into extra inning, period. NPB games, which had gone to 12 innings before being called and declared ties, will only go 10 this year due to the coronavirus.

Top of 10th

Ryuta Konno, who in six pro seasons with the Rakuten Eagles has pitched a total of 23-2/3 innings, gets the ball for the Swallows in the 10th. A walk, an error on Konno and a single load the bases with no outs and a game that was once in hand in peril.

A Naomichi Donoue sacrifice fly puts the Dragons in front for the first time since the first inning, and there’s still time for more.

Another former Eagle, catcher Motohiro Shima due to lead off the Swallows’ 10th from the No. 8 spot.

Dayan Viciedo flies out but a wild pitch erases any force play as the Dragons look to add on here. Abe makes contact, again, grounding between second and third, and it’s 9-7 Dragons.

Bottom of 10th

Two-out single by rookie Yudai Koga against veteran lefty Toshiya Okada brings Yamada up with a chance to tie it. He survives a possible third strike on a checked swing before beating out an infield single to short.

Okada gets two strikes against Taishi Hirooka but can’t get him to chase two sliders he buried. The lefty hangs the next one and Hirooka lines it into left to load the bases.

Munetaka Murakami, who blasted 36 home runs last year as a 19-year-old rookie is up with a chance to walk it off. But two swinging strikes, and Okada pumps his fist as the Dragons get away with the win.

Opening Day 2020

Wayne Graczyk used to refer to these games as the lid lifter, and even after all this time I can’t think of a Giants home game at Tokyo Dome without seeing Wayne in my mind’s eye on the sideline.

Wayne’s world

We all miss you so much, from asking whether I brought a bento or whether I would eat in the media salon, “the chow hall” or go out for something to checking to see whether I brought coffee or not since he’d stopped at Mr. Donuts in Kichijoji and brought me my “Jim Allen Special” — a plain old fashioned.

Wayne, me and Phil one summer evening at Tokyo Dome.

Opening Day is always special and Wayne always made it more so. So today, all of us honor you, because like so many of the wonderful kind and hard-working players and coaches who came to Japan to ply their trade, you made Japan and Japanese baseball better. It was Wayne’s world, and we were privileged to have a place in it.

Opening Day lineups


  1. CF Nishikawa
  2. RF Ota
  3. LF Kondo
  4. 1B Nakata
  5. DH Wang
  6. 2B Watanabe
  7. SS Ishii
  8. 3B Nomura
  9. C Usami


  1. LF Spangenberg
  2. SS Genda
  3. C Mori
  4. 1B Yamakawa
  5. 2B Tonosaki
  6. 3B Nakamura
  7. DH Kuriyama
  8. RF Kimura
  9. CF Yuji Kaneko


  1. SS Mogi
  2. 3B Suzuki
  3. DH Blash
  4. 2B Asamura
  5. LF Shimauchi
  6. RF Romero
  7. 1B Akaminai
  8. C Ota
  9. CF Tatsumi


  1. 1B Okada
  2. DH Rodriguez
  3. LF M.Yoshida
  4. RF Jones
  5. 3B Nakagawa
  6. 2B Oshiro
  7. C Wakatsuki
  8. SS Adachi
  9. CF Goto


  1. CF Fukuda
  2. DH Kakunaka
  3. LF Ogino
  4. 3B Laird
  5. RF Martin
  6. 2B Nakamura
  7. 1B Inoue
  8. C Tamura
  9. SS Fujioka


  1. RF Uebayashi
  2. 1B Kurihara
  3. CF Yanagita
  4. DH Balentien
  5. LF Hasegawa
  6. 3B Matsuda
  7. SS Imamiya
  8. C Kai
  9. 2B Makihara


  1. RF Itoi
  2. CF Chikamoto
  3. 3B Marte
  4. 1B Bour
  5. LF Fukudome
  6. 2B Itohara
  7. SS Kinami
  8. C Umeno
  9. P Y. Nishi


  1. 2B Yoshikawa
  2. SS Sakamoto
  3. CF Maru
  4. 3B Okamoto
  5. LF Kamei
  6. 1B Nakajima
  7. RF Parra
  8. C Kobayashi
  9. P Sugano


  1. CF Oshima
  2. RF Hirata
  3. LF Almonte
  4. 1B Viciedo
  5. 3B Takahashi
  6. 2B Abe
  7. SS Kyoda
  8. C Kato
  9. P Ono


  1. 1B Sakaguchi
  2. 2B Yamada
  3. LF Aoki
  4. 3B Murakami
  5. CF Shiomi
  6. RF Takai
  7. SS Escobar
  8. C Shima
  9. P Ishikawa


  1. LF Pirela
  2. 2B Kikuchi
  3. CF Nishikawa
  4. RF Suzuki
  5. 3B Mejia
  6. C Aizawa
  7. 1B Dobashi
  8. SS Tanaka
  9. Osera


  1. CF Kajitani
  2. RF Otosaka
  3. 2B Soto
  4. LF Sano
  5. 1B Lopez
  6. 3B Miyazaki
  7. C Ito
  8. P Imanaga
  9. SS Maeda

Final countdown to 2020

The 12 teams in Japan’s two six-team leagues, the Pacific and Central, announced their 31-player active rosters for Opening Day on Thursday. All six games start at 6 pm Japan Time (5 am EDT).

My guide to Japanese pro baseball is HERE. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but there may be something there of interest. You’ll find full rosters with links to the players’ English language NPB web pages, managers’ records, team info and more.

Friday’s Opening Day match-ups:

Seibu Lions vs Nippon Ham Fighters

-At MetLife Dome: ZACH NEAL vs Kohei Arihara

Orix Buffaloes vs Rakuten Eagles

-At Kyocera Dome: Taisuke Yamaoka vs Takahiro Norimoto

Seibu Lions vs Nippon Ham Fighters

-At PayPay Dome: Nao Higashihama vs Ayumu Ishikawa

There are a variety of routes through which one can stream Japanese games outside of the country, but Pacific League TV (pay) is the one I’m most familiar with. HERE‘s my guide to that service.

Yomiuri Giants vs Hanshin Tigers

-At Tokyo Dome: Tomoyuki Sugano vs Yuki Nishi

Yakult Swallows vs Chunichi Dragons

-At Jingu Stadium: Masanori Ishikawa vs Yudai Ono

DeNA BayStars vs Hiroshima Carp

-At Yokohama Stadium: Shota Imanaga vs Daichi Osera

Opening Day active rosters

A total of 18 first-year pros made the Opening Day rosters, a rather large figure — even for a country with only one real tier of minor leagues. Players with an asterisk are still considered rookies for 2020, while those with their names in capital letters are registered as imported players.

Pacific League

Seibu Lions

P14Tatsushi Masuda
P15Tetsu Miyagawa*
P17Wataru Matsumoto
P20Shota Hamaya*
P25Katsunori Hirai
P28Ryosuke Moriwaki
P40Ichiro Tamura*
P44Kaito Yoza*
P48Shota Takekuma
P61Kaima Taira*
C2Masatoshi Okada
C10Tomoya Mori
C37Sena Tsuge*
IF3Hotaka Yamakawa
IF4Kakeru Yamanobe*
IF5Shuta Tonosaki
IF6Sosuke Genda
IF39Wu  Nien-ting
IF60Takeya Nakamura
OF1Takumi Kuriyama
OF7Yuji Kaneko
OF9Fumikazu Kimura
OF46Shohei Suzuki*
OF58Masato Kumashiro
OF72Seiji Kawagoe*

SoftBank Hawks

P11Yuki Tsumori*
P13Akira Niho
P16Nao Higashihama
P17Sho Iwasaki
P21Tsuyoshi Wada
P28Rei Takahashi
P38Yuito Mori
P53Keisuke Izumi*
P57Shinya Kayama
P63Hiroyuki Kawahara
P66Yuki Matsumoto
C12Hiroaki Takaya
C19Takuya Kai
C31Ryoya Kurihara
IF5Nobuhiro Matsuda
IF6Kenta Imamiya
IF8Kenji Akashi
IF22Tetsuro Nishida
IF23Ukyo Shuto
IF36Taisei Makihara
IF68Masaki Miori*
IF99Keizo Kawashima
OF9Yuki Yanagita
OF24Yuya Hasegawa
OF32Tatsuru Yanagimachi*
OF51Seiji Uebayashi

Rakuten Eagles

P13Kohei Morihara
P14Takahiro Norimoto
P20Tomohiro Anraku
P22Kazuhisa Makita
P28Tomohito Sakai
P52Taisei Tsurusaki*
P58Wataru Karashima
C2Hikaru Ota
C29Ayatsugu Yamashita
C44Yuichi Adachi
IF0Hiroto Kobukata*
IF3Hideto Asamura
IF5Eigoro Mogi
IF6Kazuya Fujita
IF7Daichi Suzuki
IF26Naoto Watanabe
IF33Ginji Akaminai
IF34Tsuyoshi Yamasaki
IF36Yasuhito Uchida
OF8Ryosuke Tatsumi
OF35Hiroaki Shimauchi
OF51Yuya Ogo*

Lotte Marines

P12Ayumu Ishikawa
P15Manabu Mima
P16Atsuki Taneichi
P20Taiki Tojo
P30Tsuyoshi Ishizaki
P37Fumiya Ono
P47Yasuhiro Tanaka
P48Toshiya Nakamura*
P52Naoya Masuda
C22Tatsuhiro Tamura
C32Toshiya Sato*
C99Tomoya Kakinuma
IF0Takashi Toritani
IF4Yudai Fujioka
IF5Hisanori Yasuda*
IF8Shogo Nakamura
IF40Koki Fukuda*
IF44Seiya Inoue
OF0Takashi Ogino
OF1Ikuhiro Kiyota
OF3Katsuya Kakunaka
OF7Shuhei Fukuda
OF25Hiromi Oka
OF63Koshiro Wada*

Nippon Ham Fighters

P14Takayuki Kato
P16Kohei Arihara
P19Chihiro Kaneko
P25Naoki Miyanishi
P29Kazutomo Iguchi
P31Toru Murata
P34Mizuki Hori
P39Ryo Akiyoshi
P47Kenya Suzuki*
P49Katsuhiko Kumon
P54Taisho Tamai
P56Mitsuo Yoshikawa
C10Yushi Shimizu
C22Shinya Tsuruoka
C30Shingo Usami
IF2Kenshi Sugiya
IF6Sho Nakata
IF9Takuya Nakashima
IF21Kotaro Kiyomiya
IF23Ryo Watanabe
IF24Yuki Nomura*
IF32Ryota Yachi
IF38Kazunari Ishii
IF58Toshitake Yokoo
OF4Yuya Taniguchi
OF5Taishi Ota
OF7Haruki Nishikawa
OF8Kensuke Kondo

Orix Buffaloes

P14Kazumasa Yoshida
P15Yudai Aranishi
P18Yoshinobu Yamamoto
P19Taisuke Yamaoka
P29Daiki Tajima
P35Motoki Higa
P47Tomoyuki Kaida
P49Keisuke Sawada
P57Nobuyoshi Yamada
P95Fumiya Kanbe*
C23Torai Fushimi
C33Masato Matsui
C37Kenya Wakatsuki
IF0Shoki Katsumata*
IF3Ryoichi Adachi
IF9Koji Oshiro
IF38Shohei Kojima
IF64Shinya Hirosawa*
IF67Keita Nakagawa
OF8Shunta Goto
OF25Ryo Nishimura
OF34Masataka Yoshida
OF41Kodai Sano
OF50Yuya Oda
OF55Takahiro Okada

Central League

Yomiuri Giants

P15Hirokazu Sawamura
P18Tomoyuki Sugano
P28Kazuto Taguchi
P30Yohei Kagiya
P40Yuri Furukawa
P41Kota Nakagawa
P47Takahiro Fujioka
P49Thyago Vieira*
P57Kyosuke Takagi
P58Ryosuke Miyaguni
C22Seiji Kobayashi
C24Takumi Oshiro
C27Ginjiro Sumitani
C69Takaya Tanaka*
IF0Daiki Masuda*
IF5Hiroyuki Nakajima
IF6Hayato Sakamoto
IF25Kazuma Okamoto
IF29Naoki Yoshikawa
IF51Shunta Tanaka
IF52Takumi Kitamura*
IF93Dai Yuasa*
OF2Yang Dai-kang
OF8Yoshihiro Maru
OF9Yoshiyuki Kamei
OF36Shingo Ishikawa
OF43Shinnosuke Shigenobu

DeNA BayStars

P13Hiromu Ise*
P14Kenta Ishida
P17Kazuki Mishima
P19Yasuaki Yamasaki
P21Shota Imanaga
P34Shingo Hirata
P45Michael Peoples*
P58Yuta Muto
P92Yuki Kuniyoshi
C10Yasutaka Tobashira
C29Hikaru Ito
C32Kyosuke Mashiko*
IF0Daisuke Nakai
IF5Toshihiko Kuramoto
IF9Yamato Maeda
IF31Tatsuhiro Shibata
IF44Keita Sano
IF51Toshiro Miyazaki
OF1Masayuki Kuwahara
OF3Takayuki Kajitani
OF33Tomo Otosaka
OF37Taishi Kusumoto
OF61Tatsuo Ebina*

Hanshin Tigers

P14Atsushi Nomi
P16Yuki Nishi
P17Yuta Iwasada
P22Kyuji Fujikawa
P34Masaki Tanigawa*
P43Koki Moriya
P50Koyo Aoyagi
P66Ippei Ogawa*
P67Suguru Iwazaki
C12Seishiro Sakamoto
C44Ryutaro Umeno
C94Fumihito Haraguchi
IF0Hiroki Uemoto
IF0Seiya Kinami
IF2Fumiya Hojo
IF3Yusuke Oyama
IF33Kento Itohara
IF55Naomasa Yokawa
IF58Fumiya Araki
IF62Kai Ueda
OF5Koji Chikamoto
OF7Yoshio Itoi
OF8Kosuke Fukudome
OF9Shun Takayama
OF25Taiga Egoshi

Hiroshima Carp

P14Daichi Osera
P16Takeru Imamura
P18Masato Morishita*
P21Shota Nakazaki
P23Kazuki Yabuta
P28Hiroki Tokoda
P36Atsuya Horie
P39Yasunori Kikuchi
P46Mikiya Takahashi
C27Tsubasa Aizawa
C31Yoshiyuki Ishihara
C61Shogo Sakakura
IF0Takashi Uemoto
IF2Kosuke Tanaka
IF4Tetsuya Kokubo
IF6Tomohiro Abe
IF7Shota Dobayashi
IF33Ryosuke Kikuchi
IF35Takumi Miyoshi
IF63Ryoma Nishikawa
OF1Seiya Suzuki
OF5Hisayoshi Chono
OF37Takayoshi Noma
OF50Hiroki Takahashi

Chunichi Dragons

P13Yuki Hashimoto*
P16Katsuki Matayoshi
P17Yuya Yanagi
P19Kazuki Yoshimi
P21Toshiya Okada
P22Yudai Ono
P28Kodai Umetsu
P33Daisuke Sobue
P34Hiroto Fuku
P46Hiroshi Suzuki
C35Takuya Kinoshita
C44Yuya Gunji*
C52Takuma Kato
IF1Yota Kyoda
IF3Shuhei Takahashi
IF5Toshiki Abe
IF9Shun Ishikawa
IF55Nobumasa Fukuda
IF63Naomichi Donoue
OF6Ryosuke Hirata
OF8Yohei Oshima
OF23Issei Endo
OF26Masataka Iryo
OF31Masaru Watanabe*
OF56Kengo Takeda

Yakult Swallows

P12Taichi Ishiyama
P17Noboru Shimizu*
P18Naruki Terashima*
P19Masanori Ishikawa
P20Kazuki Kondo
P38Yugo Umeno
P44Hiroki Onishi*
P69Ryuta Konno
P90Hiroki Hasegawa*
C45Motohiro Shima
C52Yuhei Nakamura
C57Yudai Koga*
IF1Tetsuto Yamada
IF10Takahiro Araki
IF36Taishi Hirooka
IF39Takeshi Miyamoto
IF55Munetaka Murakami
IF66Taisei Yoshida*
OF9Yasutaka Shiomi
OF23Norichika Aoki
OF31Kotaro Yamasaki
OF41Yuhei Takai
OF42Tomotaka Sakaguchi
OF49Daiki Watanabe*
OF50Tsuyoshi Ueda

It’s hard, but stop whining

If you’re a fan of major league baseball, you have a right to be upset that greedy owners are holding you and the game you love in contempt, while a deadly virus makes a mockery of many things you thought of as normal and threatens lives and livelihoods. Things have turned upside down. I get it. I feel your pain and your anger.

That being said, it looks like you will have your baseball in one form or another. And it’s about goddamn time you appreciate that part of it and stop complaining about the package it’s coming in.

I know that’s hard, but stop whining just because it’s not the baseball you’re used to.

Sure, there are concerns. We want the players and coaches and people working around them in the game to all be safe. And I don’t just mean the people we pay to see but the people we don’t, the clubhouse managers, cooks, security guards, batboys and umpires.

A lot of people are affected by the coronavirus and the callous way the owners have treated them and everyone concerned with baseball including the fans is worthy of a serious karmic kick in the privates.

I also get that a huge chunk of our love of baseball is a stable foundation, a predictable format of a certain number of games followed by a postseason. Twitter is now awash with serious people questioning whether a shortened season will be legitimate, and I suppose that’s a valid question in an era where the phrase “small sample size” is as common a feature in a baseball broadcast as “clutch performer.” Baseball’s grand moments are truly grand because they stand out from a long-established pattern. Those moments, those special seasons become musical riffs we hear in our memory that have the power to take our breath away years later.

We worry that losing the commonality of a long grinding regular season will deprive us of the joy of placing that year’s accomplishments neatly on the shelf next to the others in our history and the knowledge that it is just one more completed piece of an orderly baseball universe.

People whose opinions I thrive on are upset that awards handed out for a 50-game season will lack luster, and I don’t blame them. But if we expect players to compete, if that’s what we’re really here for, the human reach and struggle to win and overcome adversity, then hell yes, the awards have meaning. OK, so we won’t learn as much about how good a team is over 162 games. Spare us all the lectures. We know it in our hearts.

All my life, I’ve listened to people say the true test of greatness is a 162-game season only to turn around in October and say exactly the same thing about a seven-game world series. The same people often utter both and are completely unconcerned with the apparent contradiction. We love both, the long grind and the final decision. One is a test, the other a crapshoot. But let’s face it, who doesn’t like a game of chance now and then.

If you like, boycott this unfamiliar experiment because it’s a contrivance of the greedy bastards who couldn’t give two shakes for either the beauty of the game, the artisans who produce it, or the human beings who invest their time and money into it. The game would be so much better run by people who loved baseball as much as they love guaranteed returns on investments.

Do what you can to never give the owners a penny. They don’t deserve you. Encourage the people who play and teach the game to quit MLB and form a better union. But don’t complain about having baseball.

If any of you look at this season and say “That’s not baseball,” then you’re getting on the same viral cruise ship with the morons who say baseball in Japan or in Korea or Taiwan is not baseball because it’s different — because it’s different from what they’re accustomed to.

But having seen baseball through Japanese lenses for more years than I like to say, seeing something familiar from a different perspective teaches you as much about where you’ve been as about where you are.

So fight for change, support the players and human rights and abandon the charlatans who run MLB, but treasure this season for what it is, a special riff in baseball’s musical universe. I guarantee you’ll never forget it.

Playing it safe in japan

Is it still baseball without spitting and scratching?

We’re about to find out in Japan, where for the time being, spitting is among the banned activities when pro baseball returns on Friday, nearly three months after the originally scheduled Opening Day.

Essentially, every player and every member of the team staff who comes into contact with players will receive a PCR test prior to Opening Day and be retested once a month.

Here is a quick outline of the coronavirus guidelines published by Nippon Professional Baseball on Wednesday:

For players

  • Temperatures to be taken before leaving for the ballpark. All players and team staff should keep a record of where they go and who they come into contact with.
  • Wear masks as much as possible except when on the field and in the dugout.
  • Be particularly careful about social distancing in designated smoking areas, and limit the number of people there.
  • Refrain from high fives or shaking hands
  • Do not spit
  • Do not lick your hand during the game
  • Practice social distancing as much as possible in the dugout.
  • Do not shout or take part in huddles before the game or the start of a team’s at-bat. You are permitted to raise your voice during the course of play.
  • Avoid contact during mound meetings.

For others

  • Home plate umpires will wear surgical masks during the game, and umpires will avoid contact with players
  • Official scorers will wear masks and maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from each other and up to 2 meters if possible.
  • The media will not be allowed on the field or in the dugouts (Japanese media are never allowed clubhouse access).
  • Members of the media will wear mask and social distance, while remaining at least 2 meters from players when speaking to them in reporting areas. Teams will provide online reporting access.


Those testing positive will submit their tracing reports to their teams, who will report them to NPB so that members of other teams deemed to have had close contact with them can be tested.

There are different quarantine protocols depending on whether the person in question is symptomatic or not, or if a family member tests positive or people come into close contact with others testing positive or if either they or someone living with them feels ill.

Import players coming from overseas must undergo an interview at the airport and self-quarantine for 14 days. Players families entering the country must self-quarantine for 14 days. Players who come into contact with their families during that 14-day period must report to the commissioner’s office and self-quarantine for 14 days.

NOTE: Since non-citizens have been banned from entering Japan, even permanent residents, this last note is kind of hollow at the moment.