Thursday was a big day in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, for the Hanshin Tigers’ crowded field of imported players.
On the mound, reliever Jon Edwards made quick work of the three Rakuten Eagles batters he faced in a practice game. According to the Nikkan Sports, Edwards needed just 2 minutes, 30 seconds and eight pitches to get through the inning. His fastball, which touched 93.2 mph and has “natural cut,” produced three ground balls in quick succession against a trio of left-handed hitters.
Venezuelan Robert Suarez, who moved from the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks over the winter, also delivered a perfect inning in his bid to replace Pierce Johnson as Hanshin’s new setup man.
On the offensive side, newcomer Jerry Sands, who arrives this spring from KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes, had his first hit in live game action when he went the other way with an outside slider while behind in the count.
In addition to Sands, the Tigers have holdover Jefry Marte and have added Justin Bour. Two other pitchers are also looking to squeeze in under the four-import limit, third-year lefty Onelki Garcia and new import Joe Gunkel.
Stewart, Sunagawa impress against big boys
After spending his entire first season in Japan playing against amateurs for the SoftBank Hawks’ third team, Carter Stewart Jr faced first-team hitters on Thursday, the final day of spring camp according to Fullcount.
He was joined by Okinawa-born developmental contract player Richard Sunagawa (Richard Makoto Sunagawa O’Brien), who had two hits and a home run.
Stewart, the eighth selection in MLB’s 2018 draft, worked two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and touched 153 kph (95 mph).
“His pitches had something on them,” said Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo, whose 224 career wins rank 13th in the history of Japanese pro ball. “He used his breaking pitches and his mechanics looked good. His slide step has improved, and looks like a good one.”
Head coach Hiroyuki Mori said, “He’s better than I expected. He may have a chance to pitch on the first team this year. We have a lot of injuries, so he could be like that beam of light that breaks through.”