Camp Fires March 4, 2021

There were two preseason games on Friday, an afternoon Tigers-Eagles game and an evening Hawks-Marines game.

Second-year Tigers outfielder Teruaki Sato has looked very good so far. From about the middle of last season he began striking out twice a game, something analyst Kenichi Yazawa said was due to excessive motion of his head, causing him to lose command of the strike zone.

His head looked very still on Friday, and his swing as big as ever as he hit the ball hard, and has now struck out once in 11 plate appearances, which might be a record for him since turning pro.

Otherwise, Takahiro Norimoto allowed a first-inning run on two hits over four innings for the Eagles, and Alan Busenitz followed with a 1-2-3 innings. Koyo Aoyagi, Hanshin’s best starter last season, allowed two hits and two walks over four scoreless innings.

Haruki Nishikawa, one of three surprising offseason discards by the Nippon Ham Fighters, continued to do well in the Eagles’ leadoff spot, with a single, a walk, a double, a run and an RBI.

After their game, the Tigers returned to the field to get some exposure to night conditions under Koshien Stadium’s new brighter LED lighting.

In Fukuoka, new Hawks manager Hiroshi Fujimoto had SoftBank’s longtime third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda at first with Richard Sunagawa at third in a game that was to be started by Kodai Senga. The Hawks’ ace, however, was scratched as a COVID close contact.

The strangest thing about this game was having Kenta Imamiya sacrifice twice in the No. 2 spot. He’s got some pop and we know he knows how to bunt with 327 career sacrifice hits, so I wonder if it’s just Fujimoto establishing his managing his credentials via the sacrifice the same way Imamiya told me he worked to boost his case for the starting shortstop job as a youngster by working on his bunting and not looking like a power hitter.

In a country where it’s OK to swing for the fences and play for big innings but not OK to say you’re swinging for the fences or playing for big innings, perhaps Fujimoto is showing that he understands the job requirements.

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