Forget “Rocket,” Roki Sasaki is now “The Candyman.” In addition, Japan announced two injuries, but opted for only one roster move ahead of Thursday’s quarterfinal with Italy.
Sweet act of contrition
The Lotte Marines pitcher, who on Saturday struck out eight Czech batters in 3-2/3 innings for Japan, visited the Czech Republic’s team base early Monday morning bearing gifts.
Two days hitting Willie Escala in the knee with a 100 mph fastball, Sasaki showed up with an autographed ball, and a bag full of snacks, ostensibly from the candy manufacturer that owns the Marine and offered his apology. Needless to say, his act was well received.
“That was a wow moment. The Japanese culture never stops to amaze me each day as we are here, this once again took it to another step, another level as a superstar that he is; that he took his time to come to the bus, meet Escala and send us a bunch of candy and sign a ball for Willie, it was a huge sign of respect. And we are so happy to be in Japan to experience this. This is something that is really close to our hearts, and we like this. We really like it. We truly enjoy this.”–Czech Republic infielder Peter Zyma
“He reminded me that baseball is not just war, business, but gentlemen and the sport of gentlemen. And I’m going to use this moment to thank Major League Baseball for organizing this tournament and how they help us and develop for our motivation. I want to say thank you, Japan, for their hospitality. Japan fans, they are in our hearts. Here, we felt great and enjoyed our time. And if our destiny will give us, I am looking forward to be here after three years.”–Czech Republic manager Pavel Chadim
Japan closer Kuribayashi out
Samurai Japan’s closer, Hiroshima Carp reliever Ryoji Kuribayashi, exited the WBC without throwing a pitch due to lower back discomfort, the team announced Monday morning.
Kuribayashi’s exit opens the door for reliever Soichiro Yamazaki, who is now the fourth member of the Japan Series champion Orix Buffaloes staff playing for Japan, after ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto, lefty starter Hiroya Miyagi and fellow right-handed reliever Yuki Udagawa.
First-choice shortstop Sosuke Genda, who broke a finger diving into a base against South Korea on Friday and has not played since, will stay on the roster, ostensibly so that he might be available for the final round in Miami.
His absence still leaves Japan with three capable shortstops ahead of the Italy game, Takumu Nakano, who was expected to be his main backup, and the two SoftBank Hawks utility men, Ukyo Shuto and Taisei Makihara.