Tag Archives: Hanshin Tigers

Bour, Tigers may be done

Justin Bour is done with the Hanshin Tigers, the Daily Sports reported Friday morning, a day after he was dropped from the active roster following pregame practice. The Nikkan Sports later spoke to manager Akihiro Yano, who said Bour’s deactivation was due to the import-player roster limit.

The front office met with the owner on Wednesday. Bour was scheduled to work out with the farm team from Saturday with no plans to reactivate him. Some players come to Japan with a no-cut clause, allowing them to refuse an assignment to the farm.

The team has busily been informing older players that they won’t be back for 2021, starting with 43-year-old outfielder Kosuke Fukudome and 41-year-old former ace Atsushi Nomi.

In 99 games, Bour is slugging .422 with a .338 on-base percentage.

Last year, the Tigers signed Yangervis Solarte in the summer, promoted him to the first team after a couple of days with the minor league club. He brought an instant dynamic presence to the team but had difficulty adjusting and things blew up. When Solarte was deactivated, he quit the team rather than report to the minors.

NPB 2020 Oct. 21

Wednesday’s games

Other news

Senga deals Hawks to victory

The SoftBank Hawks turned a pitchers’ duel into a rout with seven runs off the Nippon Ham Fighters’ bullpen in a 9-1 win at Sapporo Dome on Wednesday. The Hawks, looking to win their first Pacific League pennant in three years, lowered their magic number to eight.

The Japanese news on Thursday will be the Hawks HAVE a magic number. But don’t be confused. That’s just the way they do things here.

Hawks ace Kodai Senga (9-6) allowed a run in the second on three ground balls that weren’t particularly well hit. He left after 6-1/3 innings having allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out five.

Drew VerHagen (7-6) allowed three runs over 6-2/3 innings. He gave up eight hits and a walk while striking out six.

Until the bullpen got involved everything revolved around the Hawks’ Ukyo Shuto and the Fighters’ Taishi Ota.

Shuto dropped a ground ball at second, allowing second-inning leadoff hitter Sho Nakata to reach on an error. Ryo Watanabe reached on a grounder to third. Ota smacked a breaking ball up in the zone through the infield, and Nakata just beat the throw home.

The Hawks took the lead in the fifth. Takuya Kai singled and scored when Shuto burned around the bases on a triple to the gap in left center. The Hawks’ speedster then scored on Akira Nakamura’s fly to right, barely beating the tag after a strong throw from Ota arrived on the first-base side of the plate.

With one out and two on in the bottom of the sixth, Ota hit a fly to medium deep right field,  Nakata barreled home, but Ryoya Kurihara’s throw was on the third-base side of the plate, and lacking Shuto’s speed, Nakata was out. Shuto sparked a three-run seventh with a two-out walk that chased VerHagen. Reliever Mizuki Hori walked Nakamura and surrendered an RBI single to Yuki Yanagita. Takahiro Nishimura came in and gave up a two-run double to Yurisbel Gracial.

Déjà vu all over again

For the second straight night, Shuta Tonosaki led off the bottom of the ninth against Lotte Marines closer Naoya Masuda (3-4) and scored the winning run on a ball hit by Kakeru Yamanobe to lift the Seibu Lions to a 2-1 win at MetLife Dome.

For the second straight night, Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda (5-0) worked dangerously. A night after he blew a one-run save, he pitched out of trouble to keep the game tied. Tonosaki drew a leadoff walk and instead of scoring on a dropped fly ball as he did on Tuesday, scored on a Yamanobe single.

Ernesto Mejia’s fourth-inning RBI single opened the scoring, and the Marines tied it in the seventh on a double play after Ikuhiro Kiyota and Hisanori Yasuda singled to open the inning.

Oshiro HR lifts Buffaloes

Koji Oshiro homered in the ninth inning off Yuki Matsui (4-5) to lift the Orix Buffaloes to a 6-5 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Buffaloes setup man Tyler Higgins (3-3) earned the win after he surrendered the tying run in the bottom of the eighth. Brandon Dickson loaded the bases in the ninth but allowed no runs to notch his 15th save.

The Eagles’ Stefen Romero capped a four-run first inning with a three-run home run, his 21st.

Swallows win battle for the ages

Forty-year-old Masanori Ishikawa (2-7) allowed a run over six innings and Munetaka Murakami, who is 20 years, 11 days younger, brought the Yakult Swallows from a run down with his 24th home run to beat the Central League-leading Yomiuri Giants 2-1 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto broke up the scoreless game with a fourth-inning home run, his 17th. The visitors blew a chance for a fifth-inning insurance run when Yoshihiro Maru was put out trying to score from third when Takumi Oshiro failed to bunt a breaking ball in the strike zone.

With Norichika Aoki aboard in the sixth, Murakami hit an improbably low pitch from Giants lefty Yuki Takahashi and hit a nine-iron into the left-field stands for an opposite-field home run.

Dragons centurian Viciedo beats BayStars

Dayan Viciedo’s three-run home run, his 16th of the season and the 100th of his Japan career, overturned a 2-1 deficit and lifted the Chunichi Dragons to a 4-2 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome.

Tyler Austin singled in both of DeNA’s runs in the first and third, but Edwin Escobar surrendered one-out hits to Yohei Oshima and Yota Kyoda before Viciedo took him deep with two outs. The Dragons bullpen, weakened by the loss of closer Raidel Martinez, allowed six of the BayStars’ final 13 batters to reach but no runs.

Marte returns, homers in Tigers’ win

Jefry Marte returned after a 3-1/2 month absence to smash a two-run homer that lifted the Hanshin Tigers to a 2-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.

Koyo Aoyagi (7-8) worked 5-1/3 innings. He gave up a hit, two walks and hit a batter while striking out eight. Closer Robert Suarez, the Tigers’ fifth pitcher, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to take over the CL saves lead with his 22nd.

Carp starter Atsushi Endo (3-6) allowed two runs over six innings. He struck out nine.

Tigers may be done with Fukudome

Kosuke Fukudome, who at 43 is the oldest player in Nippon Professional Baseball, has been notified by the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers that he is not in their plans for next year, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.

Such notices usually mean a player will be released or sold, but that is not always the case. It is noteworthy that when the Tigers became a novel coronavirus cluster in September, Fukudome had been one of those who had broken team protocols by dining out in a group of eight — twice the team’s limit.

As happens in Japan, at least one head had to role when a problem occurred in conjunction with rulebreaking and team president Kenji Ageshio announced on Oct. 9 that he would step down.

Another thing that happens in Japan is that the punishment and blame handed to athletes who break the rules is in inverse proportion to their competitiveness.

When a number of Japanese badminton players were found to have visited a casino–which are illegal in Japan–the most lenient treatment was reserved for world No. 2 Kento Momota, who missed the 2016 Olympics but has since returned to competition.

When a number of Yomiuri Giants pitchers were found to have bet on baseball, the lightest punishment was reserved for the only one who was any good. And after sitting out for one year and showing remorse, lefty Kyosuke Takagi resumed his career.

In 2019, Fukudome posted a .347 on-base-percentage, his worst as a regular in Japan. This year, his struggles have intensified, making him vulnerable to pay a price for his failure to follow the rules.

A former CL MVP, Fukudome spent five seasons in the United States, where he may have had the worst NPB-to-MLB translated value in history.

An on-base machine with good power (career .383 OBP .495 slug), who was killed by his first pro home park, Nagoya Dome, Fukudome’s offensive numbers in the majors (.359 .395) fell off considerably despite playing in excellent hitters’ parks.

Using Bill James Win Shares, most Japanese players lose some value going to the States, and after coming back past their prime, regain a little or stay about where they were in terms of value. Fukudome dropped sharply when he left and rebounded sharply when he returned.

I haven’t had a chance to speak with him about it, but MLB’s more challenging travel requirements and training routines may have been particularly hard on him. These differences can be very tough on Japanese players–regardless of Hideki Okajima‘s assertion that it was easy for him and “if it’s hard to adjust, you don’t belong in MLB.”

Marines: Laird has undergone surgery

Lotte Marines third baseman Brandon Laird underwent surgery for a lumbar disk hernia on Monday in Arizona, the Pacific League club announced Wednesday. The 33-year-old is in his sixth Japan season and his second with the Chiba-based Marines.

He was deactivated on Aug. 5 and traveled to the States 11 days later. He has played in 39 games this year with six home runs, giving him 169 in Japan. Laird was instrumental in the Nippon Ham Fighters winning the 2016 PL pennant and Japan Series, and is well known in Japan for his “sushi-making” home run celebration.

TIme for sushi.

Buffaloes drop ace Yamamoto

A day after yet another sharp outing in which he allowed two runs over seven innings, the Orix Buffaloes dropped ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto on Wednesday.

Yamamoto was taken off the hook for the loss when Orix came back to tie it 2-2 in the ninth inning. The 22-year-old leads both leagues with 149 strikeouts and tops the Pacific League with a 2.20 ERA and 126-2/3 innings. The move, according to the Daily Sports, was made out of consideration for his lower-body fitness and overall fatigue.

The Chunichi Dragons also made a move, dropping closer Raidel Martinez, who has struck out over 11 batters per nine innings and is tied for the league saves lead with Robert Suarez of the Hanshin Tigers.

As usual, the Dragons failed to specify any reason for Martinez’s move other than saying it was due to a lack of lower-body fitness.”

Active roster moves 10/21/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/31

Central League

Activated

TigersP66Ippei Ogawa
TigersIF31Jefry Marte
TigersIF55Naomasa Yokawa
DragonsP53Luis Gonzalez

Dectivated

TigersP77Onelki Garcia
TigersP92Kazuo Ito
TigersOF32Kota Inoue
DragonsP97Raidel Martinez

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesP61Tsubasa Sakakibara
BuffaloesP68Yu Suzuki

Dectivated

HawksP67Shunsuke Kasaya
FightersP15Naoyuki Uwasawa
BuffaloesP18Yoshinobu Yamamoto
BuffaloesP28Ryoga Tomiyama

Starting pitchers for Oct. 22, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Hawks: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kosei Yoshida (0-0, 8.53) vs Matt Moore (5-3, 3.00)

Eagles vs Buffaloes: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takayuki Kishi (4-0, 3.74) vs Daiki Tajima (4-5, 4.01)

Lions vs Marines: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Zach Neal (4-7, 5.13) vs Kazuya Ojima (7-7, 3.50)

Central League

Swallows vs Giants: Jingu Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Daiki Yoshida (2-6, 4.82) vs Angel Sanchez (7-3, 3.34)

Dragons vs BayStars: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono (9-5, 1.92) vs Kentaro Taira (3-4, 2.48)

Tigers vs Carp: Koshien Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Minoru Iwata (1-1, 4.58) vs Kazuki Yabuta (0-2, 4.99)

NPB 2020 Oct. 6

Tuesday’s games

Other news

Marines plagued by Yamamoto

The Lotte Marines had enough trouble on Tuesday without having to face Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who allowed two hits and two walks over eight innings to improve to 8-3 in the Orix Buffaloes’ 3-0 win at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.

The Marines played the game after the local health authorities told them it would not be necessary to call it off despite the club having become an official coronavirus cluster with two positive tests on Sunday and 11 more on Tuesday – when the test results were announced a day later than expected.

Yamamoto struck out nine, and closer Brandon Dickson picked up the pace with two strikeouts in the ninth to secure his 12th save in a game played like no one wanted to stick around the ballpark any longer than they had to. The game wrapped up in 2 hours 27 minutes.

Ayumu Ishikawa, the Marines’ Opening Day starter, allowed all three runs over seven innings to fall to 7-4.

Takahashi outduels Senga

Reliever Kaima Taira got Lions starter Kona Takahashi (6-8) out of a seventh-inning jam with a double play as the Seibu Lions got past SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga in a 3-1 win at MetLife Dome.

Senga (7-6) walked a career-high seven batters but still kept it close, allowing just one run over six innings in a 142-pitch effort.

Takahashi struck out eight, hit a batter and walked one while allowing two hits over 6-1/3 innings.

Tomoya Mori drove in all three Lions runs with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly and a two-run eighth-inning triple. Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda allowed a run in the ninth but notched his 24th save.

Fighters pluck win from Norimoto

Taishi Ota’s 11th home run of the year brought the Nippon Ham Fighters from behind against Rakuten Eagles’ ace Takahiro Norimoto (5-5) in a 5-3 win at Sapporo Dome.

Naoyuki Uwasawa (8-4) allowed three runs, one earned, over 6-1/3 innings to earn the win.

Sugano earns 100th career win

Tomoyuki Sugano improved to 13-0 thanks to some solid run support to earn his 100th career victory in the Yomiuri Giants’ 6-4 win over the DeNA BayStars at Tokyo Dome.

Yoshihiro Maru broke a 1-1 tie with a third-inning home run off rookie Yuya Sakamoto (3-1) who took his first career loss. Sugano had a fourth-inning hiccup when some poor pitches led to a two-run Jose Lopez homer. Zelous Wheeler canceled that out in the fifth with a two-run shot off former BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki. Tyler Austin went deep off lefty Kota Nakagawa in the eighth for his 14th home run.

The Giants ace allowed three runs over seven innings on four hits, two walks and a hit batsman. Rubby De La Rosa worked the ninth for his 15th save.

Giants-BayStars highlights

Katsuno pitches Dragons past Swallows

Akiyoshi Katsuno (3-4) worked 7-2/3 innings against a depleted Yakult Swallows lineup squad and their scheduled starting pitcher in the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-0 win at Nagoya Dome.

Announced Swallows starter Yasuhiro Ogawa was scratched after developing a fever. Out of concern of a possible coronavirus infection, the Swallows also kept star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, shortstop Naomichi Nishiura and closer Taichi Ishiyama off the game roster. Ogawa tested negative, and the other three players are expected to play from Wednesday.

In Ogawa’s absence, the Swallows turned to rookie Takuma Kubo (0-1), who allowed all four runs in the second inning to earn his first career loss in his first career start. Katsuno allowed five hits, a walk, and hit a batter while striking out six.

Tigers, Carp draw

Hanshin Tigers closer Robert Suarez allowed the tying run to score in the bottom of the 10th but got out of the inning with the potential winning run on base in a 4-4 10-inning tie with the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Marines getting presidential

Perhaps the Lotte Marines’ home park should be known as the White House, where Wednesday’s game against the Orix Buffaloes went ahead after the local health authorities — perhaps following Donald Trump’s advice that we shouldn’t fear the virus– said there was no reason to cancel.

After over a day of waiting for test results that should have been known Monday after a game that shouldn’t have been played Sunday, the Lotte Marines announced Tuesday afternoon that seven players and four members of the team staff have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officially making the Marines Japan’s first pro sports body in Japan to become an infection cluster.

In addition to them, four others have been determined to have been in close contact with pitcher Daiki Iwashita, who fell ill on Saturday and returned a positive test on Sunday, the same day the team hosted the Seibu Lions. The four were seated near him on the team’s flight on Friday from Chitose Airport to Haneda Airport.

At the same time, the Marines announced that their Eastern League farm game against the DeNA BayStars’ minor leaguers had been called off, ostensibly because much of the farm team will be needed to replace the first team on the active roster. Wednesday’s game has also been scratched.

The infected and those in close contact have made 1,167 plate appearances this season, slightly more than one third of the team’s total and have accounted for 129-1/3 innings pitched of the team’s 811 this season.

On Sunday, the Marines tested everyone connected to the first team, but Monday and came and the club shrugged its shoulders and said, “Sorry. We haven’t heard anything.”

Iwashita fell ill after he returned from the team’s roadtrip to Sapporo, where he allowed two runs over six innings in his start.

One first-team staff member, who was not deemed to have been in close contact with Iwashita, also tested positive on Sunday.

On Sept. 25, the Hanshin Tigers called up nine players from their farm team to replace four who tested positive and five others who had been in close contact with them. The following day, the Tigers were only able to suit up 17 minor leaguers for their Western League farm game.

Who’s sick

  • P Daiki Iwashita
  • OF Takashi Ogino
  • OF Katsuya Kakunaka
  • OF Ikuhiro Kiyota
  • OF Tsuyoshi Sugano
  • IF Takeshi Toritani
  • SS Yutai Fujioka
  • IF Ryo Miki
  • Assistant coach Shota Ishimine
  • Four members of 1st team staff

Who’s been in contact

  • P Yusuke Azuma
  • P Fumiya Ono
  • OF Koshiro Wada
  • P Daiki Yamamoto

Swallows’ Ogawa held back due to fever

The Yakult Swallows pulled scheduled starter Yasuhiro Ogawa from Tuesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons after the 30-year-old right-hander developed a 37.3 C fever. He was ordered to rest at the team’s hotel in Nagoya.

The Swallows opted to pull infielders Tetsuto Yamada and Naomichi Nishiura and closer Taichi Ishiyama from the game roster for Tuesday’s game game pending the result of a test on Ogawa.

Ramirez rumors starting again: Sponichi

Sports Nippon Annex reported Tuesday that the DeNA BayStars are considering replacing manager Alex Ramirez with minor league manager and former ace pitcher Daisuke Miura.

There appears nothing more concrete to this story than there was six weeks ago when some pundits picked apart Ramirez’s work and pointing out his unorthodox decisions, in an effort to promote the candidacy of someone else–hopefully someone who could then gift them coaching jobs with the team.

The team’s owner, Tomoko Namba, has indicated the team’s mission is to win, and a former DeNA international employee has said the pressure within the organization to do so–despite a limited talent base–is extreme and has turned the BayStars’ front office into a pressure cooker.

Active roster moves 10/6/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/16

Central League

Activated

GiantsP26Yuki Takahashi
GiantsP40Yuri Furukawa
GiantsIF52Takumi Kitamura
CarpP58Reira Fujii
CarpOF38Koki Ugusa
SwallowsP69Ryuta Konno

Dectivated

GiantsP58Ryosuke Miyaguni
GiantsP95Hayato Horioka
GiantsIF98Estamy Urena

Pacific League

Activated

LionsOF58Masato Kumashiro
EaglesP43Sung Chia-hao
EaglesC44Yuichi Adachi
MarinesP11Chihaya Sasaki
MarinesP41Kakeru Narita
MarinesP86Jose Flores
MarinesC45Yuito Munetsugu
MarinesIF40Koki Fukuda
MarinesIF50Shin Matsuda
MarinesIF59Kei Hosoya
MarinesIF67Kenta Chatani
MarinesIF68Kenji Nishimaki
MarinesOF2Kyota Fujiwara
MarinesOF38Akito Takabe
FightersC60Takuya Kori

Dectivated

MarinesP24Yusuke Azuma
MarinesP27Daiki Yamamoto
MarinesP37Fumiya Ono
MarinesIF00Takashi Toritani
MarinesIF4Yudai Fujioka
MarinesIF23Ryo Miki
MarinesOF0Takashi Ogino
MarinesOF1Ikuhiro Kiyota
MarinesOF3Katsuya Kakunaka
MarinesOF31Tsuyoshi Sugano
MarinesOF63Koshiro Wada

Starting pitchers for Oct. 6, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Eagles: Sapporo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Drew VerHagen (6-5, 3.95) vs Hideaki Wakui (10-3, 3.06)

Lions vs Hawks: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Shota Hamaya (2-1, 5.68) vs Shunsuke Kasaya (2-3, 3.26)

Marines vs Buffaloes: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuya Ojima (6-6, 3.50) vs Andrew Albers (3-6, 3.80)

Central League

Giants vs BayStars: Tokyo Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuto Taguchi (5-4, 4.42) vs Shingo Hirata (0-0, 3.19)

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono (7-5, 2.18) vs Masanori Ishikawa (1-5, 4.65)

Carp vs Tigers: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Atsushi Endo (2-4, 4.34) vs Minoru Iwata (1-0, 2.31)

NPB 2020 6-26 GAMES AND NEWS

Saturday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Live blog: BayStars vs Tigers

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

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

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

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

Go to today’s LIVE BLOG.

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.

Return to TOP

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.