Kuriyama on way out

Hideki Kuriyama is on his way out as manager of the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters according to multiple reports on Tuesday, something he declined to deny before Wednesday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes, Kyodo News reported.

Kuriyama has been managing the Fighters since 2012 when the Fighters won their first pennant without Yu Darvish in forever. During his tenure, the Fighters got the full measure of production as Sho Nakata and Yang Dai-kang settled into their prime, while he helped Shohei Ohtani become Shohei Ohtani.

Sources close to Kuriyama said two years ago that he tried to quit but was persuaded to stay. The Fighters finished fifth the past two seasons because the Buffaloes propped up the standings, but this year’ they’re headed for their second last-place finish under Kuriyama.

It’s almost fitting that Kuriyama is leaving now. While Ohtani was his masterpiece, his biggest unrealized dream, pitcher Yuki Saito, announced last week that this would be the end of his frustrating 11-year career.

Atsunori Inaba, once one of the Fighters’ biggest run producers, and one of Kuriyama’s batting coaches, managed Japan to the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and is probably No. 1 on the team’s list to replace Kuriyama.

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