A day after arriving at the Rakuten Eagles spring camp in Kin, Okinawa Prefecture, and admitting to some nerves in his old crimson getup, Masahiro Tanaka threw his first NPB bullpen in eight years on Sunday.
Throwing to third-year player Hikaru Ota, whose 67 games last year were the most of the Eagles’ catching staff, Tanaka said it was his job to take the lead, Full-count reported.
“Even me, I didn’t feel I had done enough to establish that communication (with my catcher) when I was young, so it’s on me to go to him and establish an atmosphere where he can easily ask me things,” said Tanaka, who admitted it was a little different throwing NPB’s ball.
“I was a little off with this (NPB) ball, but nothing major.”
If it’s Sunday, it’s time for Isao Harimoto’s Curmudgeon Corner, his sports section on TBS Network’s Sunday Morning. This morning, he was joined by fellow traveler and former Yomiuri Giants teammate Tsuneo Horiuchi.
Both Horiuchi and Harimoto said Tanaka’s return is a chance to boost Japan’s game, implying that there is something to be learned from playing abroad.
Horiuchi said, however, that it was proper for Tanaka to return to Japan and for Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano to stay here for 2021. To be honest, I can only assume he meant individual Japanese players should stay home to improve the quality of the domestic game. But if Tanaka hadn’t gone abroad, he wouldn’t be the pitcher he now is, so that’s a problematic argument.
Moving on to other things about camp, the segment’s announcer showed some of the novel training methods being tried out this spring, starting with Giants farm team manager Shinnosuke Abe having batters do some lifting barbells on the sideline after BP.
“The essence of baseball is hitting a ball with a bat. You want to be careful about building up the wrong muscles, because they can impede your swing,” Harimoto said in what was for him an unusually well-phrased observation. “Horiuchi-san will tell you it’s the same for pitchers.”
Horiuchi agreed, but added that novel training was a kind of fun thing for coaches, and that thinking outside the box is probably a good thing, upon which the focus switched to the Seibu Lions’ camp, where players executed a standard footwork drill while solving a series of simple arithmetic problems a coach shouted at them.
“Complete waste of time that would be better spent building up their physical condition,” Harimoto said. “If they want to learn arithmetic, they should do it in the offseason.”
Adam Jones struck pay dirt for the third-straight game as the Orix Buffaloes cashed in on a 6-5 win over the Seibu Lions on Sunday at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Jones broke a 3-3, eighth-inning tie with his ninth home run, a one-out solo shot off setup man Reed Garrett (3-1) and the Buffaloes added on two more runs in the inning. Acting skipper Satoshi Nakajima gave rookie Taisei Urushihara the ball for his top team debut. Urushihara, who saved 23 games last year for Nakajima in the Western League, allowed two runs but earned his first save.
Jones said he wasn’t looking to break the tie with a home run.
“I’m just trying to be aggressive. I’m not trying to hit the ball out of the park. I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and put a good swing on it and the last couple of days it’s been working so hopefully it can continue,” Jones said.
Two of his last four home runs had put the Buffaloes in front and another had tied a game.
“I like the pressure of tough situations. In the last couple of days, it’s been good to come through for the team. We’re just going to play the game hard and live with the results. The last couple of days they’ve been good.”
It looked like the Buffaloes had met their match in Lions right-hander Wataru Matsumoto, who retired Jones in the second on three-straight high fastballs. Matsumoto allowed a solo homer in the first to diminutive slugger Masataka Yoshida and left with a 3-1 lead.
The Lions got to lefty Andrew Albers in the fifth, when two scored on Hotaka Yamakawa’s two-out double. Takumi Kuriyama made it 3-1 in the sixth with his seventh homer. But Lions rookie Tetsu Miyagawa let the hosts back into it in the home half. Singles by Keita Nakagawa and Ryoichi Adachi set the table, and Yutaro Sugimoto, whom Nakajima brought up with him from the farm team singled both home.
“Keita and I had both been working hard on the farm, and it’s good that we could both produce up here,” Sugimoto said. “The farm games are played outside, and it’s really hot. We all bond under the shared hardship. I didn’t hit the ball well, but got lucky in where it went.”
“Urushihara gave his all on the farm alongside me, so it is only natural that he gets results up here.”
VerHagen, relievers shut out Eagles.
Drew VerHagen (5-1) worked six innings, and his teammates broke the ice with two outs in the sixth inning en route to an 11-0 Nippon Ham Fighters win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sapporo Dome.
VerHagen pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth, scattered five hits and two walks while striking out eight. He set the tone for the game in the first inning, when he got four ground balls, including a single when he failed to properly cover first. The only ball the Eagles managed to elevate off him in six innings was a foul out to his catcher.
Eagles right-hander Yuya Fukui (0-3) had allowed three runners through five innings. He made his pitches in the sixth, but good swings by Go Matsumoto and Haruki Nishikawa produced a single and a double that put two in scoring position with one out. J.T. Chargois struck out Sho Nakata, who leads both leagues in home runs and RBIs, but allowed the tie-breaking run to score on an infield single and an RBI single by Kotaro Kiyomiya.
Kiyomiya added a three-run home run, his fourth, in the Fighters’ six-run seventh.
Yanagita, Ishikawa lead Hawks’ victory
Yuki Yanagita’s third home run in three games, a towering two-run shot, opened the scoring and Shuta Ishikawa (6-0) allowed an unearned run over six innings in the SoftBank Hawks’ 6-4 win over the Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The win moved the Hawks one game ahead of the Marines at the top of the PL standings.
A day after he hit the bottom of the stadium’s big screen over 100 feet above the playing surface, Yanagita launched another towering shot off lefty Toshiya Nakamura (1-1). His 18th home run hit off the facade that towers above the ballpark’s right-field stands.
Nobuhiro Matsuda and Ryoya Kurihara each added a two-run shot for the three-time defending Japan Series champs.
Ono goes distance again with 1st shutout
Lefty Yudai Ono (4-3) threw a five-hitter for his first shutout and his fourth-straight complete-game victory as the Chunichi Dragons beat the DeNA BayStars 3-0 at Nagoya Dome.
Ono, who had struck out 10 in each of his three previous starts only notched seven, while scattering five hits and two walks. He also walked and scored a run.
Dragons leadoff hitter Yohei Oshima singled three times and scored twice. He reached with one out in the third, stole second, and scored on Zoilo Almonte’s two-out single. Oshima followed Ono’s fifth-inning one-out walk and scored on a double off the wall by Ryosuke Hirata. The Dragons veteran had been recalled that morning after rehabbing for a month with the farm team.
Sakaguchi pushes Swallows past Tigers
Tomotaka Sakaguchi homered and hit a tie-breaking RBI infield single to drive in two runs as the Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers 4-2 at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
A week after throwing his first no-hitter, Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa (6-2) allowed two runs on five hits and a walk over seven innings. After Sakaguchi tied it 1-1 in the first with his fifth home run, Ogawa singled in the go-ahead run in the second. He earned the win after Noboru Shimizu and Taishi Ishiyama finished up with one scoreless inning each.
Tigers starter Takumi Akiyama allowed two runs over six innings and squeezed in the tying run in the fifth, but setup man Joe Gunkel (0-2) took the loss after allowing two singles and hitting a batter in the seventh.
Sakakura blast lifst Carp over Giants
Shogo Sakakura’s second home run in two games, an eighth-inning pinch-hit shot off former Carp Kan Otake (1-1) lifted the Hiroshima Carp to a 2-1 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Carp cleanup hitter Seiya Suzuki tied it 1-1 in the fourth with his 13th home run, while 21-year-old right-handed starter Atsushi Endo held the Giants to a run over seven innings.
Lefty Atsuya Horie worked a scoreless eighth. Closer Geronimo Franzua loaded the bases with a single and a pair of two-out walks but hung on to earn his sixth save. Zelous Wheeler lined a 3-2 pitch from Franzua to left, but left fielder Jose Pirela was able to make the catch.
Harimoto heaps praise on rookie Rodriguez
Hall of Famer Isao Harimoto, Japan’s favorite Sunday morning baseball curmudgeon, this week heaped praise on Chunichi Dragons rookie pitcher Yariel Rodriguez, the Daily Sports reports.
Speaking remotely in his usual spot on the TBS network’s “Sunday Morning,” Harimoto called the 23-year-old, who has made three impressive starts, “ominous.”
“He’s got good stuff. He’s 23. You can’t hit those pitches, they are heavy and move. If you aren’t really good, he’s awfully hard to hit. You get the sense, like you do with (Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki) Sugano that if this guy is on the mound, the team feels like it’s going to win.”
Isao Harimoto, on TBS’ Sunday Morning, Aug. 23, 2020
Dragons rush Hirata up to replace Fukuda
The Chunichi Dragons on Sunday deactivated outfielder Nobumasa Fukuda and rushed veteran outfielder Ryosuke Hirata back from his rehab assignment to take his place according to the Hochi Shimbun.
Fukuda left Saturday’s game at Nagoya Dome against the DeNA BayStars in the fourth inning due to stiffness in his leg and was examined at a local hospital.