The Rakuten Eagles were vague last week about when Masahiro Tanaka would report to camp in Okinawa, but on the seventh day after his press conference in Tokyo, the Eagles’ world appeared to be complete.
“I get nervous just putting on the team’s gear,” Tanaka said according to Full-count.
Tanaka invited his teammates, few of whom were there in his 2013 MVP season before he left to play for the Yankees, to ask for any kind of advice.
“If there is anything I can tell you, I will be happy to answer, so feel free to ask, ” he said. “I’m sure you won’t feel free to ask, that’s why I’m making a point of it.”
Tanaka’s arrival not only excited his nervous teammates but also drew interest from around the league, including from SoftBank Hawks coach Ryosuke Hiraishi, a batting coach with the 2013 Eagles.
“He has no flaws,” Hiraishi said. “He was a tremendous teammate, but he’s going to be a fierce rival and we’re going to have our work cut out for us devising plans to attack him,” Sanspo reported.
In addition to Tanaka, the PL got another boost on Saturday, when former Diamondback and Mariners reliever Yoshihisa Hirano signed with his first pro club, the Orix Buffaloes, Kyodo News (Japanese) reported.
This is probably not news that CL teams with aspirations of winning a Japan Series wanted to hear, and comes on the day when Yomiuri Giants owner Toshikazu Yamaguchi once more hit the DH panic button, Sankei Sports reported. After the Giants were swept out of the Japan Series for the second straight year, manager Tatsunori Hara said the CL could not compete without the DH.
Suddenly the Giants owner has taken up the crusade to “do the obvious” and get the league a DH to “give the fans the best possible baseball.” Forgive me, but if this is something that was obvious, how come the Giants never talked about it until after a second postseason of painful procedures to remove bats from their orifices.
In other news:
Ryoya Kurihara, who had a breakout season for the Hawks has been practicing at a new position, third base, where the first baseman/right fielder took balls alongside captain Nobuhiro Matsuda, Full-count reported. Without slugging Cuban left fielder Yurisbel Gracial on hand, Kurihara has a chance to become the understudy at third, and who knows, the hot corner heir apparent since Matsuda is 37 and ostensibly can’t play forever.
The Lotte Marines continue to handle fire-balling teenager Roki Sasaki with care.
Pitching coach Masato Yoshii said Saturday according to Sankei Sports that Sasaki would be on a special training program Sunday for one day only. He did one light throwing session on the first day of camp after which Yoshii proclaimed the right-hander would not be ready to pitch in the Marines’ first intrasquad game. Then he threw another bullpen and everything appeared to be OK.
Last year, Sasaki did not appear in a single game on either the farm or first team and much of the talk about his conditioning was the time it was taking him to recover after throwing live BP or bullpens.
Also at Lotte camp, former slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka declared, according to Nikkan Sports that Speedster Koshiro Wada is “taking more swings than anyone in camp and hitting more balls to the opposite side” – which fits into the Japanese profile that fast left-handed hitters are duty-bound to hit the ball on the ground to the left side of the infield.
In Carp camp, 2020 CL rookie of the year Morishita threw a 106-pitch bullpen, in which he tried out his version of the Kenta Maeda slider he learned from the Twins pitcher over the winter. According to Daily Sports, Morishita reported that his mastery of the pitch is currently at 0 percent.
Also in Carp camp, Kevin Cron hit 15 balls over the fence in BP, with the team’s owner in the stands, getting all excited about it, Sankei Sports reports. It may seem like nothing, but Hajime Matsuda has a lot of sway with his team. In the past when he’s had an inkling about how something should be done, he made sure the coaches knew about it and took action.
A year after the Hanshin Tigers setting up a third base competition between Jefry Marte and Yusuke Oyama, Marte has apparently put into a battle with Jerry Sands for the first base job, Nikkan Sports reports.
Right-handed reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, the last Japanese player left in the major league free agent market is now in the States to confer with agent John Boggs as talks progress, according to Kyodo News (English).