Hawks’ Ishikawa to start Opening day

SoftBank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo said Friday that Shuta Ishikawa will be his Opening Day starter, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.

“We made the evaluation based on his results last season and his form in camp,” Kudo said of the right-hander, who tied two others—including ace Kodai Senga–for the PL lead in wins last season.

The Hawks will open the season against the Lotte Marines on March 26. Both Senga and last year’s Opening Day starter, Nao Higashihama are currently with the team’s rehab group. Ishikawa is yet another one of the Hawks’ regulars who was unclaimed in the regular draft before being taken in the subsequent developmental draft.

Kudo goes long in BP

But Ishikawa wasn’t the only Hawks hurler in the news, if one counts Kudo. The 57-year-old skipper threw 143 pitches in an early BP on Friday for some of the team’s young hitters, his first “action” in two years.

Kudo, who won 224 games in his career appeared a little wild at the start but made some adjustments and was able to get the job done, Nishinihon Sports reported, saying Kudo had routinely thrown BP prior to last year when the opportunity didn’t arise.

That changed this year when former national team manger Hiroki Kokubo rejoined his old team as head coach, and dictated that every position player would be required to take 1,000 swings a day. So far, much of that extra early BP has fallen on the shoulders of new camp advisor Kenji Jojima.

“It’s OK for Kokubo to say ‘1,000 swings’ but we don’t have the batting practice pitchers for that,” the 44-year-old Jojima said. “I’m getting worn out.”

Osera returns from September surgery

Hiroshima Carp ace Daichi Osera rejoined the first team in camp on Friday, his first time back since he underwent right elbow surgery in September and reported he felt no discomfort from his surgery and rehab Sponichi Annex reported.

“I have no unusual stiffness, just the normal amount that comes from throwing,” he said when he arrived for the final phase of camp in Okinawa.

Osera has been the team’s Opening Day starter for the past two seasons, and despite his late start is still in the running to make it three in a row, according to manager Shinji Sasaoka, who said Thursday that he would wait to see how Osera pitched in games.

Roki Sasaki faces live batters

Fireballing Lotte Marines teenager Roki Sasaki threw a 25-pitch live batting practice on Friday, the Chunichi Sports reports.

Sasaki, who broke 100 mph two years ago in a national team training camp, has yet to pitch in a game since the Marines won his negotiating rights in the first round of the 2019 draft. The right-hander faced three batters at the Marines minor league camp on Ishigakijima island, the first he’d pitched to since May 26.

“I wanted to check my feel since it was the first time I’ve pitched to batters this year,” Sasaki said. “My focus was on thorough execution. I could clearly see those areas where I was doing it right and those areas where I wasn’t, so now I want to address those areas that need fixing.”

Nomi takes mound for Buffs

New Orix Buffaloes left-hander Atsushi Nomi threw two hitless innings while striking out three in an intrasquad game on Friday. It was the former Hanshin Tigers ace’s first mound appearance of the spring with his new club, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.

“I wanted to see how batters reacted to my pitches,” said the 41-year-old Nomi.

Torai Fushimi, who was behind the plate for the lefty’s 25 pitches, said, “His control was sharp, and he knows how to attack hitters. As I thought, he’s really good.”

Lions’ Matsumoto closes on 1,000 pitch target

Seibu Lions right-hander threw a 100-pitch bullpen on Friday, bringing him close to his target of breaking 1,000 in spring camp, the Nikkan Sports reported.

“I came to camp this year intent on really building a solid count,” said Matsumoto, who is slated to throw again on Sunday, the last day of the team’s camp. “I’m at about 900 and I want to get to 1,000. I’ll see what my body has to say about it but I will throw around 100 more.”

City residents welcome Tigers minor leaguers

The city of Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, reported that roughly 75 percent of the respondents to a survey supported the Hanshin Tigers’ plan to move their minor league facility there from its current location at Naruohama Stadium in Nishinomiya the Nikkan Sports reported Friday.

Of the 11,098 respondents, 57.3 percent were strongly in favor of such a move, while another 18.1 percent were ambivalent but not opposed to it. The Tigers are looking to expand away from their long-time minor league facility which is both old and too cramped for their future plans.

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