NPB news: Nov. 26, 2023

While I spent a rare Saturday off wandering around western Tokyo on a tour led by Teruyo’s friends to visit shrines and 1,500-year-old Asuka-period burial mounds that I didn’t know existed in the area, there has been some baseball news that needs catching up on.

Compared to 2022, when two big stars, catcher Tomoya Mori and Kensuke Kondo switched teams as free agents, this year’s domestic free agent class has definitely been down market, but we had our second signing.

We also have a newly signed pitcher who wants to be a two-way player, some bad news for the Rakuten Eagles, who are apparently continuing their history of having dictatorial types in the clubhouse.

Fighters sign Sachiya Yamasaki

The Nippon Ham Fighters signed 31-year-old free agent right-hander Sachiya Yamasaki, who in addition to the Buffaloes’ who wanted to re-sign him was being pursued by the Swallows, Giants, BayStars and Hawks. With the Fighters, he’ll be reunited with catcher Torai Fushimi, who moved to Hokkaido from Orix as a free agent a year ago.

Yamasaki’s father, Akihiro, was a catcher and first baseman, taken in the second round of the 1979 draft by Yomiuri and made his debut pinch-hitting in 1986 when Tatsunori Hara fouled a pitch onto his wrist and broke it. Dad, who appeared in 44 games, spent his final two seasons in the minors with the Fighters, where he became a coach. He also coached with the Dragons and Giants, and has been coaching and managing in the independent minors.

Sachiya is 39-45 in his career with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP. His 11-5 record this year was easily the best of a career that started as Orix’s first-round draft pick in 2014.

New BayStars pitcher Takeda wants to do it all

Southpaw Riku Takeda, DeNA’s third draft pick this year, a pitcher out of high school who batted fourth for Japan in the recent under-18 World Cup, and hit 31 home runs for Yamagata Central High School, said Friday he hopes to be a two-way player as a pro.

The last player in his shoes, Hanshin’s Junya Nishi, who also had been a DH for Japan, said the same thing and was given a nod of approval from then manager Akihiro Yano before the team did a prompt about face – no doubt after a flood of threatening phone calls from former Tigers opposed to the idea.

More trouble in Sendai

Eagles pitcher Tomohiro Anraku, whose greatest fame as a pitcher was throwing an obscene number of pitches as a high schooler while being egged on to do so by his parents, now has another legacy to deal with, clubhouse trouble maker.

A number of Eagles players have ratted on Anraku, accusing him of “power harassment” of players less senior in the pecking order than him. So far, we’ve heard allegations that Anraku hit teammates, and demanded they pay for meals and made harassing phone calls to those who declined to dine with him.

Another allegation is that he pulled down a teammate’s underpants in the locker room in front of others and ridiculed his physique, something that reportedly occurred while former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka looked on.

And though team president Masayuki Morii said he had heard the complaints and that such behavior is not tolerated, the Eagles have a history of looking the other way to bad behavior.

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