NPB news: Jan. 24, 2023

Samurai Japan will find itself short-handed in the World Baseball Classic if Hanshin Tigers fans have their way.,

Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama has two Tigers players, reliever Atsuki Yuasa and infielder Takumu Nakano on his roster, with Nakano expected to be the backup at short behind Seibu Lions captain Sosuke Genda.

Yet, Akinobu Okada, who is returning to manage the Tigers for the first time since unexpectedly quitting after the 2008 playoffs, wants Nakano at second this season, Nikkan Gendai reported Tuesday in its online edition.

Kuriyama might have preferred to have Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto or Hawks standout Kenta Imamiya, but both have backed off on playing for Japan this year, causing Tigers fans to complain about their “having to pay the price to clean up for Imamiya and Sakamoto.”

Kuriyama has been a strong consensus builder as manager — except in his dealings with Marines skipper Masato Yoshii. Yoshii twice quit as Fighters pitching coach, once over Kuriyama’s insistence on using celebrity pitcher Yuki Saito and a second time over the skipper’s plans to employ MLB-style openers.

But otherwise, the skipper has been good at talking his way around trouble and finding solutions, and to that end paid Okada a visit and sought his understanding over Nakano’s use in the WBC.

Kuriyama also reportedly asked Okada if it would be OK to add center fielder Koji Chikamoto and pitcher Koyo Aoyagi to his list of reserves for the tournament.

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