Tag Archives: Alfredo Despaigne

Open and shut: March 4, 2020 – Full house in the Casa de PayPay

Steve Martin’s career in stand up comedy picked up as I was finishing high school and starting college, and as such his humor left a mark. One routine was about Americans’ aversion to French’s large number of difficult vowel sounds. In contrast, he presented Spanish, using the sentence: “Where is Pepe’s house? or Donde esta casa de Pepe?”

Thanks to the SoftBank Hawks’ use Fukuoka Dome to advertise SoftBank group companies, it has been Yahoo! Japan Dome, Yafuoku Dome (Yahoo! Auctions Dome). From this year it has been labeled “PayPay Dome” to represent the recently launched online billing company. It’s not identical to Martin’s famous casa, but it’s close enough that I can’t get it out of my pea brain. So for the time being I can’t think of Fukuoka Dome as anything but the Casa de PayPay.

Welcome Matt!

On Wednesday, journeyman major league starting pitcher Matt Moore struck out five of the 10 batters he faced as the SoftBank Hawks showed off their pitching depth in an 8-1 preseason win over the Central League’s Yakult Swallows.

Moore’s fastball sat at 150 kph (93.2 mph) and he complimented that with his slider and a changeup and had generally good command of his pitches, making him a strong candidate for the Hawks’ starting rotation.

The game highlights are HERE.

If Moore executes his secondary pitches, he’s going to be a success in Japan. His outing came in relief of former ace lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who other than winning the final game of last year’s Japan Series, has not been that fit over the last three seasons.

Wada gave up a solo homer on a mistake but struck out five over four innings. Rick van den Hurk, who appeared in just three games last season, was sharp on Tuesday. That means that while the Hawks appear capable of overcoming season-opening injury to 2019 rookie of the year Rei Takahashi, they are going to have tough decisions to make regarding their import players.

Teams are allowed four active foreign-registered players. New acquisition Wladimir Balentien does not count against the limit by virtue of nine years of service time, but that still leaves the Hawks with van den Hurk, Moore, lefty reliever Livan Moinelo, infielder-outfielder Yurisbel Gracial and designated hitter Alfredo Despaigne. Further complicating things is the return of closer Dennis Sarfate, who has missed most of the last two seasons.

The kotatsu league: Hawks’ Colas quits Cuba for MLB

Left-handed-hitting SoftBank Hawks outfielder Oscar Colas has reportedly fled Cuba in order to pursue a career in MLB.

Colas is currently on the Hawks’ 70-man roster unlike fellow Cuban outfielders Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, whose status is pending negotiations with Cuban authorities.

The slugger played in seven Pacific League games this season, homering in his first plate appearance on Aug. 18 in Fukuoka.

Oscar Colas goes deep in his first-team debut in Japan on Aug. 18, 2019.

After failing to get any kind of memorable results in his first two minor league seasons with the Hawks, Colas slashed .302/.350/.516 last year in the WL, a notorious pitchers’ league. A left-handed pitcher, he did appear on the mound for the Hawks’ third team, where younger players compete against amateur sides — this is the level where first-year Hawks pitcher Carter Stewart Jr competed in 2019.

Colas pitching against an independent minor league side.

Colas becomes the third player to defect after signing a professional contract to play in Japan, following Yuli Gurriel, who played in 62 games for the DeNA BayStars. His brother Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was to join him in Yokohama for 2015, but neither reported and were eventually released.

Japan Series 2019 Game 3

There was a little reminiscing at the start of Tuesday’s Game 3, when the Japan Series moved to the home of the Central League champions, with the Yomiuri Giants trailing 2-0. That’s the same deficit they overcame in the 2000 neural surgeon series to beat the Hawks.

Hawks cruise past Giants rookies

Giants rookie Yuki Takahashi lasted 2-2/3 innings, while SoftBank starter Rick van den Hurk was pulled after four frames with both starters giving up two innings. The game was decided in that 1-1/3-inning gap in which another Giants rookie, Shosei Togo, allowed four unearned runs in a third of an inning.

After a Seiichi Uchikawa single and a walk, the fun began with van den Hurk not squaring to bunt on the first pitch. TV cameras showed that this had taken the Giants bench by surprise, and the infielders had to gather at the mound to consider the implications of the Hawks not bunting in an automatic bunt situation.

Van den Hurk got a poor bunt down on the next pitch, Togo pounced and threw a one-hopper that third baseman Kazuma Okamoto could have caught but didn’t to load the bases. A pinch-hit sacrifice fly, an infield single and a walk made it 4-2 and Alfredo Despaigne completed the scoring with a two-run single.

Despaigne, a designated hitter playing left field, had one outfield incident, playing a potential out into a second-inning double for Cuban compatriot Alex Guerrero. But the Hawks’ home run leader drove in three runs with a pair of singles.

The Giants leadoff man, a hard-hitting 37-year-old on-base machine named Yoshiyuki Kamei, homered twice, while Yurisbel Gracial hit his second homer of the series.

The Giants narrative will no doubt switch from 2000 to 1989, when Yomiuri bounced back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Kintetsu Buffaloes. The Buffaloes operated from 1950 to 2004 and at the time they merged with the Orix BlueWave, were the only existing NPB team without a Japan Series championship.

Some other notes

  • The Giants may have set a Japan Series record by going through four pitchers in the first four innings.
  • van den Hurk retired Giants cleanup hitter Okamoto twice on seven pitches, all curveballs.
  • Hawks rookie Hiroshi Kaino allowed one hit in his four-batter seventh inning, with all three outs recorded on called third strikes.
  • Hawks closer Yuito Mori has pitched and wrapped up all three games but has yet to enter in a save situation.
  • Needing four runs in the ninth, Giants pinch-runner Daiki Masuda tried to go from first and third on a one-out wild pitch and didn’t make it.
  • Game 4 will pit Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, who has been suffering from lower back issues since September against 38-year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Wada, who was once the Hawks ace and who has been struggling with fitness issues the past few months as well.
  • No team has swept the Japan Series since the Lotte Marines beat the Hanshin Tigers in 2005.
  • The Hawks and Giants are playing each other for a record 11th time, with the Hawks having won just once, 60 years ago, when Nankai Hawks Hall of Famer Tadashi Sugiura won all four games in a 4-0 sweep, starting Games 1, 3 and 4, and finishing the series with back-to-back complete game victories.