Ikuhiro Kiyota was suspended indefinitely by the Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League on Friday after he was fingered by a weekly magazine as the culprit behind the Pacific League club’s coronavirus cluster last September, Nikkan Sports reported.
The Marines issued the suspension a week after the magazine “Friday” published a photo of the 34-year-old outfielder dining out in Sapporo in violation of the team’s coronavirus protocols.
Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido has been one of the nation’s coronavirus hotspots. Pitcher Daiki Iwashita tested positive after the Marines returned from a road trip to play the Nippon Ham Fighters. Although no one admitted breaking the rules, a total of 14 players — including Kiyota — tested positive for the virus, forcing the club to call up a large number of reserves from the farm in order to field a team.
Kiyota is now prohibited from joining the team for spring training, starting from Feb. 1, while Naoki Matsumoto, the club’s head of baseball operations received a severe warning for failing to adequately prevent adult professional athletes from breaking the rules.
The Marines finished second last season in the PL despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus cluster within the organization, but it may be a while before we here Kiyota’s ear-worm “oenka.”