There was only one game scheduled on Thursday, the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, as the Rakuten Eagles, based in the heart of the disaster area, beat the Lotte Marine 8-5 in an otherwise unremarkable game in Shizuoka.
Let the kids play
More eyes were focused on this weekend’s games, when highly-touted right-hander Roki Sasaki is expected to pitch for the Marines on Friday in his first game as a pro, against the Chunichi Dragons, where another player who has yet to a darn thing as a pro was getting all excited.
Akira Neo, a highly touted prospect who has produced no offensive numbers worth talking about in two minor league seasons since Chunichi took him in the first round out of high school, called it a dream matchup, Sponichi Annex reports.
“I’ve only seen him on TV, but he is a special pitcher,” said Neo. “I want to swing well and hit whatever he throws.”
Hawks get help
Elsewhere, the SoftBank Hawks are anticipating the return of three of their biggest offensive producers, manager Kimiyasu Kudo said, according to Hochi Shimbun.
Cubans Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial are slated to join first team for the first time this spring, while Yuki Yanagita returns from the team’s rehab group.
Giants sign 2 Dominican amateurs
The Yomiuri Giants have made their signings of 16-year-old shortstop Jose De la Cruz and outfielder Julian Tima to their developmental roster. The Giants tried out the Dominican youngsters from the Moreno Academy in November 2019 and again in March 2020, full-count reports.
According to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas on Feb. 23, the Giants paid Tima a $675,000 signing bonus, and lured the shortstop De la Cruz with a $500,000 offer.
NPB’s developmental contracts will require the Giants to add the youngsters to their 70-man roster by Nov. 31, 2023 or release them. But even at the extreme bottom end of Nippon Professional Baseball, developmental players will earn $21,000 a year — more than Triple-A players who have not been added to an MLB 40-man roster.