Tag Archives: Hanshin Tigers

NPB 2020 6-26 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Live blog: BayStars vs Tigers

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Look out Shohei, Daichi Osera’s coming for you

The most productive hitter in the Hiroshima Carp lineup had two hits for the second straight game, although as their ace pitcher, Daichi Osera has also been busy throwing complete games.

By stopping the Chunichi Dragons on a run over the distance, Osera has allowed two runs over 18 innings, while striking out eight. Although talk of limiting starters pitch counts apparently have not gotten to new Carp manager Shinji Sasaoka, whose arm barely survived the awful pitch counts that aces were forced to endure in the 1990s.

After allowing Osera to throw 116 pitches on Opening Day, Sasaoka thought it was OK to let him throw another 132 on Friday in Nagoya, when he allowed eight hits.

At the plate, Osera is 4-for-7 with a home run, three RBIs, three runs and a sacrifice, although Seiya Suzuki has been the Carp’s batting star. Suzuki, who some scouts think is a sure bet to be posted this winter, has 10 hits and half have cleared the fence.

https://twitter.com/nuremoh/status/1276455651963633666

Another “empty blast” for Jones

Adam Jones mashed his second home run this week for the Orix Buffaloes, who blew a three-run lead en route to their sixth loss of the season, a 6-5 defeat at the hands of the Lotte Marines.

The “empty blast” in the headline comes from how the Japanese sports papers used to describe home runs in a losing effort.

The hosts came from behind in a four-run eighth in which Leonys Martin doubled and scored. Yudai Fujioka capped the rally with two-run double. Brandon Laird hit his fourth home run of the year for Lotte.

Kimura slam rescues Lions

Fumikazu Kimura’s eighth-inning grand slam brought the Seibu Lions from behind in a 7-4 win at their home park, MetLife Dome, over the SoftBank Hawks. The blast took Zach Neal off the hook for the loss that would have been just his second in Japan.

Neal entered the game having won his last 12 decisions but had uncharacteristically walked three batters on Opening Day. On Friday, he took a 3-1 lead into the seventh, when he allowed three runs, one earned. He struck out eight and walked one, but his command was inconsistent.

Two-time defending PL home run king Hotaka Yamakawa homered twice to drive in three early runs. The first was on a fat mistake from Nao Higashihama, the second on a breaking ball outside that he simply put a really good swing on.

With the Lions trailing 4-3 in the eighth, Reed Garrett took the mound. Garrett had allowed a run over two innings in his first two games in Japan, but struck out the side in the eighth to help set the stage for the comeback and earn his first win.

Eagles hammer Arihara, Norimoto fans 10

The Rakuten Eagles beat the Nippon Ham Fighters 7-1 behind seven innings from Takahiro Norimoto (2-0), who allowed a run, while striking out 10. Fighters ace Kohei Arimura (0-2), who is hoping to move to the majors this winter via the posting system, allowed five runs, four earned, over six innings.

Stefen Romero homered, singled twice, walked and scored three runs for the Eagles.

Giants torch Swallows pen

The Yomiuri Giants scored five late runs against the Yakult Swallows bullpen in a 6-5 win over their local rivals at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium. Taishi Ishiyama (0-1), who saved 35 games in 2018 surrendered a two-run, ninth-inning home run to pinch-hitter Shinnosuke Shigenobu.

Rubby De La Rosa, who joined the Giants last summer, worked a scoreless ninth to earn his third save. Scott McGough, who took over as Swallows closer last summer when Ishiyama was hurt, surrendered two runs in the eighth.

Edwards sent down for “poor condition”

The Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-handed reliever Jon Edwards on Friday, with the Nikkan Sports reporting it was due to “poor condition of his shoulder.”

Edwards worked one inning of relief in the Tigers’ 11-1 Opening Day loss to the Yomiuri Giants, allowing only a single to new Giant Gerardo Parra. But in a June 2 practice game against the Hiroshima Carp, Edwards walked five straight batters.

I missed this news from Thursday, when the Hanshin Tigers deactivated right-handed starting pitcherJoe Gunkel along with right-handed reliever Koki Moriya, who felt pain in his right shoulder on Wednesday.

Gunkel faced 19 hitters in his start on Wednesday and allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks over four innings, so it’s not a surprise. I think he’s going to be effective in Japan once he makes adjustments to his approach with different hitters and has better luck with balls in play than he did in his debut.

Live blog: BayStars vs Tigers

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For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Going to pick this up in the bottom of the second. DeNA’s Neftali Soto singled with one out in the bottom of the first, and so far is the game’s only baserunner.

Bottom 2nd

Tigers starter Yuki Nishi was one of the two pitchers who homered on Opening Day. He allowed a run in six innings, scattering three walks and four hits.

Jose Lopez singles on the fourth running fastball Nishi throws him, and does well to muscle the inside pitch to left to open the inning. Nishi erases the runner when Toshiro Miyazaki miss-hits a slider to short, from where Fumiya Hojo starts a double play. Catcher Hikaru Ito, Nishi’s former teammate with the Orix Buffaloes, grounds to Jefry Marte at third.

Top 3rd

Shota Imanaga needs just three pitches to induce a fly to center from Naomasa Yokawa, and two more to retire Ryutaro Umeno. Imanaga’s fourth pitch to Nishi, an 0-2 fastball up and in causes the Tigers pitcher to look at his opposite number and say, “Watch that stuff” or something of that ilk before grounding out to second.

Bottom 3rd

Imanaga leads off from the No. 8 spot and starts an easy 1-2-3 inning. Manager Alex Ramirez has espoused a very complex rationale for when and how he bats his starting pitchers eighth, but it makes perfect sense to me, because instead of your worst hitter setting up your best three at the top of the order, you have a guy who actually gets on base.

Top 4th

Tigers’ No. 1 hitter Koji Chikamoto stays on a 1-2 changeup that gets too much of the plate and smashes it to right for Hanshin’s first hit. Hojo tries a slash bunt-and-run, but pops up to short.

Imanaga, however, does the job for the Tigers with a pickoff throw in the dirt, that gives the visitors a man in scoring position for Yusuke Oyama. In the starting lineup against the lefty in place of Justin Bour, Oyama waves at three changeups.

Marte bounces one to the right of Soto at second base and beats out an infield single. Lopez at first nearly nails Chikamoto after he overran third base, but Miyazaki was unable to get the tag on him. This gives 43-year-old Kosuke Fukudome a chance to do some damage, but he fouls out to Miyazaki at third.

Bottom 4th

Soto leads off from the No. 2 spot, which is increasingly becoming Americanized with big hitters instead of the prototypical slap-hitting bunter. The two-time home run champ grounds out, and Tyler Austin misses an 0-2 slider low out of the zone.

Keita Sano, named the BayStars captain following the departure of Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, hammers a hanging slider for a single. The weird thing about Sano being the captain is that it’s usually reserved for a veteran. Sano entered Friday’s game with 394 career plate appearances.

Lopez ends the inning when he gets jammed on a running fastball inside and pops it up into shallow left.

Top 5th

Imanaga’s changeup is giving the Tigers right-handed hitters fits as it just dies when it gets to the plate. After Hiroki Uemoto looks at a fastball inside for Strike 3. Yokawa fouls off the first change but flails at two well below the zone for Imanaga’s fifth strikeout. Umeno gets enough on a 2-1 changeup in the zone to ground it softly to third for the final out.

Bottom 5th

Miyazaki opens the scoring by driving a straight fastball in the middle of the zone out to right for opposite-field shot and his third home run of the year. BayStars 1, Tigers 0. Nishi missed with a couple of breaking balls to start and got burned aiming a 3-1 pitch.

After Ito flied out to Fukudome in right, Imanaga singled, bring up former TIger Yamato Maeda, whose bouncer between third and short is good for an infield single and two on for the power-laden top of the BayStars order.

Nishi wants nothing to do with the strike zone against athletic but injury prone Takayuki Kajitani but finally gets him on a beauty of a 3-2 running fastball that Kajitani misses badly. Nishi sets Soto up for a 2-2 slider away, but leaves it over the plate, and the slugger gets it off the end of the barrel and up the middle to load the bases for Austin.

NIshi throws a first-pitch running fastball that misses the barrel and results in a tapper back to the mound for the third out.

Top 6th

Nishi strikes out swinging to open the inning, and Chikamoto flies out to center on the second pitch before Hojo goes down swinging against more slow stuff. That’s eight strikeouts for the lefty.

Bottom 6th

Sano leads off with a single, pulling a straight 2-1 inside fastball to right. Lopez grounds softly to third, too softly for a double play. Miyazaki goest the other way again, but his fly is caught by Fukudome on the warning track. Marte makes a sure-handed grab of a grounder off the bat of Ito and the Tigers go into the seventh down by just a run.

Top 7th

Oyama finally gets the barrel on a changeup and singles to left to open the Tigers’ seventh. Marte is jammed by a cutter inside and the Tigers are lucky to escape a double play as Marte beats the throw to first.

The lefty sets up Fukudome with a cutter and fastball away before jamming and popping him up inside for a foul out to the catcher. Imanaga gets Uemoto off balance with fastballs and changeups, and he, too, fouls out to Ito.

Bottom 7th

An easy 1-2-3 inning for Nishi, who strikes out Imanaga and gets Maeda and Kajitani to fly out.

Top 8th

Oyama gets a ball through the infield for a single. Taiga Egoshi on to pinch run and Umeno sacrifices him to second. Tigers playing to tie on the road in the eighth inning because, well Japan.

Fumihito Haraguchi, one of the best stories in Japanese baseball, having battled his way onto the first team having been released and signed to a non-roster developmental contract. After establishing himself, he was diagnosed with cancer and has battled back from that, too.

Nothing cute or soft from Imanaga here: fastball, fastball, fastball, fastball. Maybe he lost his touch because he then bounced a change before getting Haraguchi to go after a second one out of the zone and foul out to the catcher.

Two outs for Chikamoto. Imanaga tries to paint and his brush is just not fine enough. He works carefully and loses him for the first walk of the game. Kento Itohara on to pinch-hit for Hojo and he grounds out to Soto at second.

Bottom 8th

Right-hander Ippei Ogawa, the Tigers’ 6th pick last autumn, on in relief of Nishi, who allows just one run in his second-straight start, but has yet to win one. Nishi works seven innings, walks three and allows eight hits but walks none.

Soto opens the inning by smashing a high fastball past first for a single, and Austin blasts a 1-1 fastball in the heart of the zone over the wall in center for his second home run in three games. BayStars 3, Tigers 0.

With one out, Seiya Kinami makes a good play after a smash off the bat of Jose Lopez trickles out of Marte’s glove. The Tigers shortstop scoops it up and fires to get the runner. A 5-6-3 out in the States is recorded 6-3 in Japan.

Ogawa throws hard but his fastball is a little straight and back-to-back singles by Miyazaki and Ito give the BayStars a chance for a safe lead. Pinch-hitter Tatsuya Shibata bats for Imanaga and walks. Bases loaded for Maeda.

The veteran fouls off a 150-kph two-strike fastball. When the rookie follows with a low slider, it seems that’s the one Maeda wanted. He goes down to get it and lines it into center for an RBI single. BayStars 5, Tigers 0.

Kajitani follows with an opposite-field liner over short. BayStars 6, Tigers 0.

Top 9th

Spencer Patton on in the ninth to wrap up the BayStars’ fifth-straight win. Marte singles with one out, but Fukudome strikes out swinging at a fastball away. Justin Bour up to keep the game alive for Hanshin.

Patton misses up and in and then just inside, but finds the corner with that one. All are pretty good pitches. Slider misses too far to get Bour to offer: 3-1. Patton gets close enough to the corner for former pitcher Norihiro Akimura calling the balls and strikes behind the plate. Patton finally gets Bour on a fly to left.

Final Score: BayStars 6, Tigers 0

NPB 2020 6-21 live

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Giants sweep Tigers

Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 last year in KBO for the SK Wyverns, had a rocky start in his NPB debut Sunday, but earned the win as Kazuma Okamoto and Gerardo Parra homered to lift the Yomiuri Giants to a 7-1 win over the Hanshin Tigers and a three-game series sweep at Tokyo Dome for the defending CL champs.

Sanchez allowed one run, on a leadoff homer to Koji Chikamoto, allowed four walks and four hits, but lasted 5-2/3 innings.

Morishita shines in pro debut for Carp

Masato Morishita, Hiroshima’s top draft pick out of Meiji University, struck out eight in his pro debut against the DeNA BayStars. The righty, who I had a look at in the spring, walked two and gave up four hits in a 104-pitch, seven-inning outing at Yokohama Stadium.

Unfortunately, there was no fairy tale finish in Morishita’s debut as four-straight BayStars batters hit line drives off Tyler Scott in the ninth. Toshiro Miyazaki finishes it off by finding the gap against the drawn-in outfield and two runs scored to end it.

“I believe that our strategy was good but that guy was real good. He has the potential to be an ace pitcher. I was glad they took him out of the game,” DeNA skipper Alex Ramirez said.

BayStars right-hander Kentaro Taira allowed a run over six innings on a walk and five hits, while striking out two.

“It was a great game all the way from the beginning. Taira did a great job from the beginning and the relievers did a great job.”

Yuki Kuniyoshi worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Spencer Patton, who worked the eighth, got the win.

Lions rookie Yoza solid in losing debut

Kaito Yoza allowed three runs over six innings in his first-team for the Seibu Lions, but the bullpen blew up over the final three innings in a 12-2 loss to the Nippon Ham Fighters. Solo homers from Sho Nakata and Taishi Ota gave the visitors an early lead they would never give up.

Mima wins Marines debut

Manabu Mima, who joined Lotte over the winter as a free agent from the Rakuten Eagles, allowed a run while striking out nine in just five innings in the Marines’ 5-1 victory over the SoftBank Hawks.

Seiya Inoue homered in the second off reliever Yuki Tsumori after the Hawks starter, journeyman Akira Niho loaded the bases by hitting Shogo Nakamura in the head. Pitches that strike a batter in or around the head are referred to as “kikenkyu” (dangerous pitches) and call for an automatic ejection for the pitcher.

Former major leaguers Brandon Laird and Leonys Martin reached base before Nakamura was hit and scored as Inoue put the game out of reach early.

June 21 Live blog: Buffaloes vs Eagles

Off to a bit of a slow start on Sunday, folks. Having a look at Orix and Rakuten today, because my favorite Japanese pitcher, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is on the mound for the Buffaloes.

Go to NEWEST.

For those of you who are curious, you can read a little about these teams in my Japanese pro baseball guide.

Top 2nd

Yamamoto has consistently the best stuff in Japan, and it looks like he’s put some muscle on his once spindly frame. He struck out the side in order in the first and got a one-run lead in the home half, but two ground balls in the second produced the Eagles’ first hit.

  1. Dangerous Hideto Asamura grounds out softly to 2nd.
  2. Hiroaki Shimauchi gets a grounder through between 1st and 2nd
  3. Former Buffaloe Stefen Romero grounds to short and the enigmatic Ryoichi Adachi starts the inning-ending double play.

Bottom 2nd

Eagles starter Ryota Ishibashi went 8-7 as a rookie last year and was second on the team in innings pitched with 127-1/3 because the club’s two best starters, Takayuki Kishi and Takahiro Norimoto missed time with injuries

Ishibashi’s average fastball velocity last year was 145.2 kph, and he’s a four-seam, cutter, splitter, and two-seam guy, although be aware the two-seam description generally encompasses two distinctly different pitches, a hard running fastball and a two-seam sinking fastball–which is the rarer of the two in Japan.

  1. Kenya Wakatsuki grounds out.
  2. Ryoichi Adachi singles to center.
  3. Shunta Goto singles to right to put runners on the corners for Takahiro Okada.
  4. Okada, who slid home headfirst to score on Keita Nakagawa’s sac fly in the first, singles in the Buffaloes’ second run.
  5. Aderlin Rodriguez looks like a player built for Japan, a smooth compact swing, who makes excellent contact. Ishibashi hangs a forkball and Rodriguez hits it high up the wall in left for an RBI double, Buffaloes 3, Eagles 0.
  6. Rodriguez, however, contributes an out on the bases, thanks to some slick defense by Eagles first baseman Ginji Akaminai. Ginji goes to a knee to stab a ball off the bat of Masataka Yoshida, makes the play at first and then throws behind Rodriguez who is trapped between second and third.

Top 3rd

  1. Akaminai, who wears “Ginji” on his uniform as his registered name, grounds out to second, topping 1-2 splitter.
  2. Catcher Hikaru hits a little comebacker to Yamamoto for the second out.
  3. Ryosuke Tatsumi, the PL’s 2018 rookie of the year swings and misses at a low fastball for another 1-2-3 inning. The thing about Yamamoto is that he has so many quality pitches, that it’s very common to see everyone guessing wrong and getting terrible swings even at mistakes in the zone.

Bottom 3rd

  1. Adam Jones had two hits on Saturday, and put a sweet swing on a straight fastball in the first for a single that contributed to Orix’s first run. Ishibashi gets a generous call on a low pitch from home plate ump Masanobu Suginaga, and Jones goes down looking.
  2. Keita Nakagawa, who had a strong rookie season playing all over the musical chairs game the Buffaloes’ infield resembled last year, flies out to left.
  3. Koji Oshiro, another of those versatile infielders from 2019, grounds out to short.

Top 4th

  1. Eigoro Mogi gets under a high 151-kph fastball and flies out to left.
  2. Daichi Suzuki, the former Marines captain who moved to Sendai as a free agent over the winter, swings under a high 1-2 running fastball to go down swinging.
  3. Jabari Blash, who struck out looking in the first, flails at a beauty of an 0-2 curve.

Bottom 4th

  1. Buffaloes catcher Kenya Wakatsuki launches a hanging first-pitch slider away to the warning track for an opposite-field leadoff double.
  2. Adachi tops an attempted sacrifice bunt in front of the plate, and Ota throws out his opposite number at third.
  3. Akaminai, playing in tight at first base, makes a good play on a little chopper by Goto.
  4. Okada, who raked in the spring and in practice games, pulled a high hanging forkball over Akaminai and down the right-field line for his second double of the game and a 4-0 Buffaloes lead. This is quite a turnaround for Okada, whose career has been in decline for nearly a decade, and who spent most of the 2019 season on the farm after a handful of sloppy at-bats and fielding misplays at first base.
  5. Ishibashi snaps off a nasty curve to send Rodriguez down swinging.

Top 5th

  1. Not a great fastball, but Asamura doesn’t get a great swing on it and pops up down the left field line.
  2. An easy fly to lefty by Shimauchi and Yamamoto appears to be operating on cruise control.
  3. He works carefully to Romero, who ends a good 6-pitch at-bat by fouling out.

Bottom 5th

Rookie right-hander Taisei Tsurusaki on the mound for the Eagles after Ishibashi gives up four runs in four innings. Tsurusaki is making his debut against the middle of the Buffaloes lineup. He looks to have a repeatable delivery, comes over the top and keeps his hand on top of the ball.

  1. Yoshida, one of the best hitters in the PL, swings at a huge 12-6 curve before taking a cutter on the outside corner for Strike 3.
  2. Jones provides less of a challenge, grounding a first-pitch fastball away to second.
  3. Nakagawa walks on seven pitches and steals second easily.
  4. Oshiro walks on 6 pitches.
  5. Wakatsuki flies out off the handle, and the rookie survives without any damage done.

Top 6th

  1. Nice at-bat by Ginji, but he tips a 2-2 shoot into Wakatsuki’s glove for Strike 3.
  2. Backup catcher Ayatsugu Yamashita batting for his catching partner Ota and grounds out easily to first.
  3. Yamamoto is toying with Tatsumi, going after the corners with his hard stuff while getting three strikes with his curve. Tatsumi goes down swinging at one low out of the zone.
Thanks for that Jason. A Yamamoto curve is not fair to pinch-hitters.

Bottom 6th

Veteran lefty Wataru Karashima on the mound for the Eagles. He had a serviceable year in the rotation last season, going 9-6 in 117-1/3 innings. He is in middle relief this year with closer Yuki Matsui moving back into the rotation. He’s basically a fastball, slider, curve change guy.

  1. I love watching Ginji Akaminai play first base. He is everywhere on everything, and knows where to look and when to throw. Another good play opens the first as he throws out Adachi to open the seventh.
  2. Goto flies out to left.
  3. Okada’s confidence is dialed up to “11” now after floundering for several seasons. He is balanced at the plate and ready to attack EVERYTHING. He walks to bring up Rodriguez.
  4. And Rodriguez, short to the ball on an inside pitch and pulls it down the line in left for a double. Okada to third.
  5. Okada, a small guy with a quiet stance in the left-handed batters box, doesn’t look like he should be dangerous, but he has serious power and plate discipline. Not this time though, as Karashima gets him to ground to short.

Top 7th

Don’t remember when the PL started the innovation of playing the visiting team’s Lucky Seventh song on the stadium speakers, but it is a nice touch, since no matter what park you’re at in the top flight there will be at least five or six hundred fans on the visitor’s side of the outfield waving their flags and cheering on their guys.

With no fans in the stands, the Kyocera Dome scoreboard was showing Eagles fans cheering from home on streaming video while, the Eagles song, what Casey McGehee called the “Igloo song,” plays.

  1. Mogi grounds out to open the visitors’ seventh.
  2. Suzuki misses a 3-2 inside fastball for Yamamoto’s 10th strikeout.
  3. Blash grounds one up the middle for an infield single.
  4. Asamura miss-hits a cutter to short for an easy out.

Bottom 7th

Tomohiro Anraku, who made a name for himself in high school with his brutal pitch counts, comes in to pitch the seventh for the Eagles.

  1. Jones looks at two fastballs low and away before grounding out to second.
  2. Nakagawa lined a pitch to short right center, and nearly got caught out thinking it would get through when Tatsumi cut it off in center.
  3. Pinch runner for Nakagawa at first, and Yuya Oda swipes second. Oshiro flies out to center but not deep enough to send Oda to third.
  4. Wakatsuki grounds out and we’re going to the 8th with the Eagles trailing 4-0.

Top 8th

  1. Shimauchi flies out to first on the second pitch.
  2. Romero flies out to second on the second pitch.
  3. Yasuhito Uchida, batting for Ginji, who may have twisted something when he miss-stepped making that play to open the seventh, rips a single to right.
  4. Yamashita his what they call a “bonda” in Japanese, an easy out, on a grounder to second.

That’s 94 pitches for Yamamoto and with a four-run lead, he won’t be back. Thirty years ago, I guarantee, he’d be getting ready for the ninth. Back then, there was no good excuse for lifting a starter who was leading. “How can you take him out? It’s a close game” or “How can you take him out with that big lead.” You name it, there was an excuse for it.

Bottom 8th

Anraku, the Eagles’ top draft pick in 2014, is back for the ninth.

  1. Adachi lines out.
  2. Goto fouls off two, two-strike pitches before striking out swinging in an eight-pitch at-bat.
  3. Anraku finally makes Okada look like the guy who could possibly be lost at the plate as he hesitates on a 1-2 fastball on the inside corner for Strike 3.

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Top 9th

United States international closer Brandon Dickson on in the ninth. He was a productive starter for the Buffaloes for six seasons, but last year, with no one else to turn to, he was thrust into the closer’s role, where he’s been dynamite. He finished 2019 as the closer for Team USA in the Premier 12.

  1. Pinch-hitter Kazuya Fujita flies out to left.
  2. Mogi grounds out to second.
  3. Suzuki fouls off a tough two-strike fastball on the outside corner. Takes a ball low for 2-2, and puts a good swing on a fastball but lines it straight to Goto in center for the Buffs’ first win of the season.

Final score: Buffaloes 4, Eagles 0

Ramping up: 22 days to go

With Nippon Professional Baseball due to open its season behind closed doors on June 19, teams have begun playing intrasquad games to prepare, and will begin playing practice games against other teams from Tuesday.

Here’s the schedule for the practice games starting from June 2.

NPB preparing strict virus guidelines

As Opening Day rapidly approaches, NPB executives are hard at work developing countermeasures to promote the safety of not just players but those who work with them or at ballparks and those peoples’ families.

According to Kyodo News in Japanese, proposed measures for these guidelines include:

  • Quarantines for those testing positive that will last until 14 days AFTER they produce a negative test result.
  • Immediate isolation of those deemed to have come in close contacted with infected people.
  • 7 days self-quarantine if someone or a family member feels unwell — even if no tests are deemed necessary or tests come back negative.
  • Fixed 5-man umpiring crews.
  • Home plate umpires wearing surgical masks at all times.
  • An end to spitting, high-fives, hand shaking and “enjin” — the practice of huddling up before games and before a team’s at-bats when someone says something to get everyone fired up.
  • Media to be barred from the field and dugouts.
  • Media to observe social distancing in those areas they are allowed to occupy.
  • Media to no longer walk alongside players.

Fujinami sent down for tardiness

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami has been demoted to the farm team for being late to practice, the Daily Sports reported Friday. It’s kind of an unusual story for two reasons. The first is that Japanese players tend to be punctual. The second is that the Tigers are one of those teams that do things like boot camp, where you are told to be 15 minutes early for everything.

Current Tigers scout Jeff Williams once talked about this custom known as “Tiger time.” Players would be told when to arrive, but because the team occupies two different parallel time universes, normal time and Tiger time, it got so confusing to Williams that he had to perpetually ask, “Is that real time or Tiger time.”

So it could have been that Fujinami was late because he was operating on the wrong clock. When he showed up after the expected time for a 10:30 am (time mode unknown) practice on Thursday, the pitcher was not permitted to take the field.

“This is not the first time for him,” manager Akihiro Yano said. “It’s up to Shintaro to make what he will of this. I made my decision based on the fact that being a responsible member of society comes before being a baseball player.”

The other confusing side to the story is that the Japanese word for late is often used in conjunction with players who are delayed in achieving game fitness. So when reading that Fujinami was late and knowing he was hospitalized after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in March, at first glance it seemed like a fitness issue, when maybe it was just a Tiger time issue.

Lotte’s Sasaki ‘not ready yet’: Iguchi

The Nikkan Sports reported Friday that fireballing Lotte Marines 18-year-old is still not close to being used in a game according to manager Tadahito Iguchi.

Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, is not in line to be used during the Marines’ 12 practice games next month.

“He’s on track but I don’t think he’ll make those,” Iguchi said, sticking to the team’s roadmap not to overwork the lanky right-hander with the smooth fluid delivery.

Women’s league to start June 23

The Japan Women’s Baseball League announced Friday it will open its 2020 season on June 23 with a game between the Kyoto Flora and the Saitama Astria, four days after NPB pops the cork on its regular season. The league will adopt special rules in order to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Games will be limited to 90 minutes and seven innings for single games, and five innings when two games are played at the same venue.

The three-team circuit was founded in 2009 when, according to the league, there were five women’s hardball high school clubs in Japan. By last year there were 40. During that time, the number of registered women ballplayers has gone from 600 to 20,000.

NPB has not offered any concrete rule changes for its games other than discussing possibly changing its active roster limits.

2 infected women in Osaka linked to dinner with Tigers pitcher Fujinami

Two of the 15 newly discovered coronavirus infections announced by the Osaka government on Saturday, were recently in contact with Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, Sankei Sports reported Saturday night.

The two women in their 20s were among 12 people who dined together on March 14 at the home of one of Fujinami’s friends. The dinner took place after Hanshin’s practice game that afternoon with the Orix Buffaloes and seven of those present were Tigers players.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The women reported similar symptoms to Fujinami, who reported a diminished sense of smell to one of the Tigers trainers. Because Fujinami allowed his name to be reported, the women were able to be tested and diagnosed.

Two of Fujinami’s Tigers teammates, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Saka also tested positive for the new coronavirus. Like Fujinami and the two women, they did not develop any of the symptoms Japan health authorities have used as a guideline for testing: a fever of 37.5 C or higher, coughing, difficulty breathing or extreme fatigue.

3 Tigers players hospitalized

The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Friday revealed that three players, pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Nagasaka have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

According to the Hochi Shimbun, all three have been hospitalized. All have complained of a diminished sense of taste and smell, but have not developed fevers or coughs.

Last week, Nippon Professional Baseball’s teams agreed to announce whenever a player was tested or tested positive, and the three are the first pro ballplayers in Japan known to have been infected.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

On Thursday the team announced that Fujinami had been tested for the virus, had all its facilities sanitized by people wearing hazmat suits and canceled a farm-team practice game scheduled that day.

The Central and Pacific leagues were originally scheduled to open for business on March 20, but Opening Day has been pushed back twice on account of the pandemic, first to April 10 and now to April 24, although that latter date seems as unrealistic as the first.

The 25-year-old Fujinami was having a promising spring after four seasons in a tailspin that started when Tomoaki Kanemoto took over as Tigers manager in 2016 for three years. Prior to that he had been a reliable starting pitcher after being the 2012 draft’s top pitching prize. Shohei Ohtani also went in that draft in the second round, because he had announced he would turn pro with a big league club.

Scout diary: Fujinami back on table

The current pandemic world of abnormal sports events may not be optimal, but for the next few days at least NPB is playing televised preseason games, and that means chances to see lots of players play baseball.

After finishing my scout course, I want to see everybody, and have tried a few different tactics to maximize coverage while also reporting on notable performances for the website. After a stressful trial-and-error period, I’ve settled on watching one game at a time, perhaps choosing based on the players involved but really focusing on everything I can during that game.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

It’s not helping me rapidly expand my knowledge of players, but it is rapidly expanding the things I know about a few individual players. On Wednesday, while I wanted to see Matt Moore pitch again for the SoftBank Hawks, I watched new Swallows right-hander Gabrial Ynoa pitch against the Hanshin Tigers and their one time teenage phenom Shintaro Fujinami.

Fujinami, a beanpole right-hander was once considered the top pitcher in a draft class that included Shohei Ohtani, but after going 35-21 over his first three seasons, he went 15-19 under his second pro manager. Last year, with his career in tatters, the 25-year-old pitched in one first-team game.

In addition to Fujinami and Ynoa, I was also curious about Orix Buffaloes third-round pick Ryota Muranishi, who may get some opportunities to pitch this year with the big club.

So, here are my snapshot reports of their games.

Shintaro Fujinami

Fujinami struck out five batters, walked one and allowed two hits over four scoreless innings. His command was below average but, the quality of his pitches was excellent.

He often got behind batters but then battled them in the zone, getting good arm action and good movement. That was probably the biggest take away.

He had good depth on a “cutter” that looks more like a slider and would be a plus pitch if he could command it better. His fastball command was mediocre but he was sitting at 93.2 mph with some good life on it. He threw some good splitters.

If he can improve the command at all, he is going to be really effective.

PresentFuture
Fastball6065
Curve
Control4050
Changeup
Slider (called a cutter)5050
Knuckleball
Other – Splitter5555
Poise4050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Gabriel Ynoa

Ynoa is a 26-year-old right-hander who throws high 3/4. He has pitched in 55 major league games, mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. His fastball sat at 148 kph (92 mph). He also threw a slider a change and a few two-seamers. His fastball command was average, his slider a little less so, while he didn’t locate his change that well, although it had good depth.

He looks like he can contribute in the rotation and eat innings. If he is one of those imported pitchers who improve their command a bit in Japan, he could be successful here.

PresentFuture
Fastball5050
Curve
Control5050
Changeup5050
Slider5050
Knuckleball
Other – Splitter
Poise5050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Ryota Muranishi

Muranishi is a right-hander who throws low 3/4. His fastball sat at 90.7, but it was fairly straight, and he didn’t command it real well. The splitter really dives and the cutter has a huge amount of glove-side run.

If he can locate the fastball and get ahead in counts, the split should be deadly. His command is not real good so that’s a maybe, but if it happens, he could be a good middle of the order rotation guy.

PresentFuture
Fastball4045
Curve
Control4050
Changeup
Slider4040
Cutter5055
Other – Splitter6060
Poise5050
Baseball Instinct5050
Aggressiveness5050

Open and shut: March 7, 2020 – Welcome to Japan, Joe Gunkel

New Hanshin Tigers right-hander Joe Gunkel started Saturday’s preseason game against the Nippon Ham Fighters at Koshien Stadium, and allowed seven runs in four innings. Despite the ugly totals it was anything but an ugly outing for the 28-year-old who pitched in the minors for the Red Sox, Orioles, Dodgers and Marlins.

Gunkel put a couple of floating sliders on a tee, and got a lesson in what left-handed hitters in Japan will do to two-seamers when they are not trying to crush the ball, but by and large it was entertaining.

A lesson in pitching to Japanese left-handed hitters.

From his low 3/4 slot, Gunkel had a lot of horizontal movement on a 91.3 mph two-seamer that he mercilessly jammed right-handed hitters with, and even got one batter looking on a backdoor two-seamer.

His slider was inconsistent in quality and command, as was his four-seamer, but he threw a splitter that really dropped and got him swinging strikes, and he is quick to the plate.

He got burned on ground balls that found holes, a couple of jam shots and a fly to deep center on a mistake pitch that carried out of the unusually windless park. He also struck out six.

Gunkel has a lot to work with, and he has a great catcher in Ryutaro Umeno to help him over a couple of minor rough spots. Hopefully, he’ll learn to use his arsenal quickly enough to keep up with the adjustments opposing hitters will make so that he doesn’t hit a prolonged rough patch. That’s because imported Tigers pitchers who have major rough patches learn more than they want to know about the Western League and get released.

Austin, Soto go back to back

Taylor Austin hit his fourth home run of the spring for the DeNA BayStars on Saturday, while two-time defending Central League home run champion Neftali Soto followed him with his first. Get a look on Austin’s face after Soto’s home run.

When I saw they both came off SoftBank Hawks journeyman Ryoma Matsuda, who gives up a fair number of home runs, I wasn’t too surprised, but compared to some of the really fat pitches Austin crushed earlier in the preseason, it was a straight fastball but not a cookie.

The Hawks opened with Nao Higashihama, who’s been named their Opening Day starter, and he looked ready to go, although he did get away with a hanging curve to Soto up in the zone that the right-handed-hitting slugger pulled foul. Matsuda had less luck with his fat pitch.

Patton’s back

The BayStars got an inning of work from Spencer Patton, who ended a frustrating season by breaking his hand against a refrigerator door. I commented to a colleague that he didn’t pitch well last season, but looking at his sharp performance on Saturday and his numbers from Delta Graphs the past three seasons, nothing really stands out.

The one outlier is his win probability. He gave up an unusual number of hits in the most volatile moments. How much of that is down to bad luck and bad timing, I don’t know. An old fart uninterested in analytics might say he lacked the “will to win,” but I am going to go with really crappy timing and luck.

I am unaware of his contract situation, but a lot of teams would have been cautious about bringing Patton back. The BayStars do a good job with analytics, and I assume they want him around because they see the intrinsic quality and because he’s a good teammate. That stuff matters.

Open and shut: NPB goes under cover

I’m calling this spring’s preseason stories “Open and shut” since a main theme so far is 72 exhibitions scheduled to be played behind closed doors as Japanese companies are being asked to curtail large gatherings in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sands opens with pair

Hanshin Tigers newcomer Jerry Sands blasted two of his team’s five solo home runs in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday. The Tigers got three scoreless innings from their Opening Day starter, Yuki Nishi, and another scoreless frame from former Hawk Kenichi Nakata.

Yusuke Oyama, who is fighting to secure the starting third base job for Hanshin, also homered twice, while 2016 rookie of the year Shun Takayama homered to continue his comeback spring effort. Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed four solo homer, all off breaking pitches.

Matsui goes 5 in Eagles restart

Yuki Matsui, making the shift from closer, started and went five innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 4-2 win over the Lotte Marines. J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz worked scoreless innings in relief for the Eagles, while former Eagle Frank Herrman and former Carp Jay Jackson each worked an inning for Lotte.

The PL clubs exchanged a host of players over the winter via free agency and other deals with. Herrmann, (Opening Day starter) Manabu Mima, and a pair of young minor leaguers, infielder Kenji Nishimaki and pitcher Fumiya Ono joined Lotte. Going the other way were Lotte’s former captain, infielder Daichi Suzuki, veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui and pitcher Tomohito Sakai.

Buffs, Fighters show off season openers

The Orix Buffaloes’ Taisuke Yamaoka worked five scoreless innings, while the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kohei Arihara allowed a run in three as the two teams went with their Opening Day starters. Orix newcomer Tyler Higgens worked a scoreless inning of relief.

Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada, who was exiled to the minors for the duration of the season after letting a routine grounder go through his legs last summer, homered in his first at-bat.

Viciedo blasts off

Dayan Viciedo homered and singled in his home preseason debut at a silent Nagoya Dome, while new Carp pitcher DJ Johnson allowed a run in one inning of work.

Camping World: Feb. 20, 2020 – Tigers imports show their stuff

Thursday was a big day in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, for the Hanshin Tigers’ crowded field of imported players.

On the mound, reliever Jon Edwards made quick work of the three Rakuten Eagles batters he faced in a practice game. According to the Nikkan Sports, Edwards needed just 2 minutes, 30 seconds and eight pitches to get through the inning. His fastball, which touched 93.2 mph and has “natural cut,” produced three ground balls in quick succession against a trio of left-handed hitters.

Venezuelan Robert Suarez, who moved from the Pacific League’s SoftBank Hawks over the winter, also delivered a perfect inning in his bid to replace Pierce Johnson as Hanshin’s new setup man.

On the offensive side, newcomer Jerry Sands, who arrives this spring from KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes, had his first hit in live game action when he went the other way with an outside slider while behind in the count.

In addition to Sands, the Tigers have holdover Jefry Marte and have added Justin Bour. Two other pitchers are also looking to squeeze in under the four-import limit, third-year lefty Onelki Garcia and new import Joe Gunkel.

Stewart, Sunagawa impress against big boys

After spending his entire first season in Japan playing against amateurs for the SoftBank Hawks’ third team, Carter Stewart Jr faced first-team hitters on Thursday, the final day of spring camp according to Fullcount.

He was joined by Okinawa-born developmental contract player Richard Sunagawa (Richard Makoto Sunagawa O’Brien), who had two hits and a home run.

Stewart, the eighth selection in MLB’s 2018 draft, worked two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and touched 153 kph (95 mph).

“His pitches had something on them,” said Hawks skipper Kimiyasu Kudo, whose 224 career wins rank 13th in the history of Japanese pro ball. “He used his breaking pitches and his mechanics looked good. His slide step has improved, and looks like a good one.”

Head coach Hiroyuki Mori said, “He’s better than I expected. He may have a chance to pitch on the first team this year. We have a lot of injuries, so he could be like that beam of light that breaks through.”

Camping World: Feb. 19, 2020 – Lions’ Neal to start Opening Day

Second-year Seibu Lions right-hander Zach Neal will get the ball on Opening Day, manager Hajime Tsuji told the team on Wednesday as they broke camp the Nikkan Sports reported.

The two-time defending Pacific League champion Lions will open at home, MetLife Dome on March 20 against the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Last season, Neal won 11 straight games and finished the season 12-1. He has since signed a two-year extension.

“Kona (Takahashi) was doing well and I was unsure (about who would pitch Opening Day,” Tsuji said. “I made up my mind with the first pitch I saw Neal throw in the bullpen.”

Hawks flamethrower Kaino to get PRP treatment

Hard-throwing SoftBank Hawks reliever Hiroshi Kaino revealed Wednesday he will undergo platelet rich plasma therapy for damage to the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow according to the Nishinihon Sports.

The 23-year-old Kaino finished second in the Pacific League’s rookie of the year voting last autumn to teammate Rei Takahashi, who is out with a hamstring issue and also doubtful for Opening Day.

Here’s Kaino’s English language NPB page.

Tigers unleash top draft pick Nishi

A day after we learned what Junya Nishi’s music will be at Koshien Stadium, the Hanshin Tigers’ top draft pick was permitted to throw breaking pitches in camp for the first time, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.

Nishi, who was also a prodigious slugger in high school and for the national Under-18 team last summer, threw a spring-high 50 pitches in the bullpen at the Tigers’ minor league camp. He said he had a good feel for both his forkball and his changeup.

Swallows Koch, Ynoa take the mound

New Yakult Swallows right-handers Matt Koch and Gabriel Ynoa saw their first game action of the spring in a practice game against the Rakuten Eagles in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture, Sports Nippon Annex reported Wednesday.

Koch, a former Arizona Diamondback struggled with his control as he allowed five runs in two innings. Ynoa, who pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, allowed a run over two innings. He touched 151 kph (93.8 mph) and graded his effort as 95 out of 100.

Austin breaking the spring

The late Wayne Graczyk used to warn players who did TOO well in the spring to be prepared to adjust before games started counting because, most of their preseason opponents are from the rival league, and teams work hard to have plans against guys who do extremely well in the spring.

If Wayne were here, he’d be telling us that now about new DeNA BayStars outfielder Tyler Austin. In a practice game against the Lotte Marines on Wednesday, Austin doubled and walked twice, making him 6-for-8 with two homers and two doubles (at least) according to the Chunichi Sports.

Famous for not throwing

Roki Sasaki is famous for two things, throwing the fastest pitches ever recorded by a Japanese high schooler, and not throwing. He, or rather his Ofunato High School manager, made front-page news last summer when the star right-hander was held out of Iwate Prefecture’s championship game. The game decided whether his school or Shohei Ohtani’s alma mater would make it to the national championships at Koshien Stadium.

So it should be no surprise that the mere fact that the Lotte Marines’ top draft pick did strength training on Wednesday cause the Nikkan Sports to headline a story “Sasaki refrains from bullpen session — according to plan says coach.”

Sometimes it’s hard not to think of Japanese spring training as a time when pitchers arms are supposed to broken — as if that is part of the process.