Tag Archives: Naoyuki Uwasawa

ramping up: 21 days to go

One aspect of the long layoff forced by the novel coronavirus is that players who were due to miss the original March 20 start of the season, are now regaining fitness and may be able to make the roster when the season finally starts on June 19.

350 days

That’s how long it will be between starts for Naoyuki Uwasawa when he takes the mound for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Tuesday’s practice game.

Last season, Uwasawa was a key component of the Rube Goldberg contraption that was the Fighters’ pitching rotation last season. Manager Hideki Kuriyama used him and Kohei Arihara as the pillars in conventional starting roles, with a handful of others tasked with going either once or twice through the opposing lineup depending on the skipper’s confidence in them.

In a June 18 interleague game, Uwasawa was kneecapped by a batted ball hit by Neftali Soto, the DeNA BayStars’ two-time Central League home run champ. Prior to that game, the Fighters starting pitchers were 26-18 with a 3.65 ERA. Afterward, even with some superb 1-inning opening acts by Mizuki Hori, they went 18-31 with a 4.32 ERA.

On Thursday, he faced five batters in a simulated game at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, and is expected to pitch two innings on Tuesday at the Lotte Marines’ Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba.

Yanagita back with a bang

Yuki Yanagita, who until the recent ascension of Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki, was considered the Japanese outfielder most coveted by MLB clubs, returned to the SoftBank Hawks’ first team for an intrasquad game on Saturday. Yanagita has been rehabbing since his 2019 dumpster fire of a season was capped with right elbow surgery in the offseason.

Yanagita missed most of the season with a knee injury and failed by the slimmest of margins to get the 140 days of service time needed to be a free agent this winter. Had the Hawks brought him up a few days earlier, he would have been on track to fulfil his stated goal of playing in the majors. They didn’t and he signed a long-ass contract that keeps him in Fukuoka for essentially the rest of his career.

On Saturday, according to the Sankei Sports, he hit an opposite-field homer from submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the Pacific League’s 2019 rookie of the year and another player who was due to miss the start of the season in March but now has a shot at helping out the rotation from the start.

Stewart takes drive off shin

The Hawks’ Carter Stewart Jr left the mound after pitching just one inning when he took a shot off his right shin that was turned into the final out of the inning.

Iguchi changes tune on Sasaki

Eighteen-year-old right-hander Roki Sasaki who repeatedly was clocked at over 100 miles per hour in his final high school season, apparently will appear in a practice game for the Lotte Marines in the coming weeks, manager Tadahito Iguchi indicated to the media on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, Iguchi had said Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, would not be ready to appear in a game next month.

The kotatsu league: Johnson, Coco taking their leaves

Much of Friday’s news from NPB concerned foreign-registered players who will not be back next season with their current teams. The big leavers include two quality middle relievers and Japan’s single-season home run record holder.

Coco free to go go

Wladimir Balentien’s run with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows has come to an end Kyodo News reported Friday. According to the report, the Swallows international director Masayuki “Michael” Okumura said, “Time’s up. We were unable to come to agreement.”

The 35-year-old Balentien, who in 2013 shattered Japan’s single-season home run record by hitting 60, hit 288 home runs and posted a .378 on-base percentage in his nine seasons with Yakult. He led the CL in home runs three times, in on-base percentage twice and was 2013 MVP.

Because of his nine years of service, he no longer counts against the four-active-player limit for foreign-registered players.

Kyodo News’ Japanese language story is HERE.

Tigers’ Johnson 1 and done

Reliever Pierce Johnson (28) will be handed his release on Nov. 2, Kyodo News reported Friday. Johnson posted a 1.38 ERA in his lone Japan season with the Hanshin Tigers. He went 2-3 and logged 40 holds.

According to Delta Graphs, Johnson led all Tigers pitchers with 50-plus innings in swinging-strike percentage (16.0) –and was second in the CL. Opposing batters made contact on just 66.5 percent of their swings against him, the best figure in the CL and the fourth best in NPB.

Dragons’ Rodriguez leaving Nagoya

Left-hander Joely Rodrirguez, whose 44 “hold points” (holds plus relief wins) led the CL by two over Pierce Johnson’s 42, is also on his way out of the Chunichi Dragons organization, the team announced Friday according to Kyodo News.

Hiroyuki Kato, the Dragons’ official representative to NPB, said Rodriguez’s agent suggested “the lefty’s priority was a contract with an MLB team” and therefore the Dragons decided not to include him on their reserved list.

The 28-year-old Rodriguez, who has displayed a plus two-seamer and changeup, has been solid in middle relief since joining the Dragons in the middle of the 2018 seasons.

Uwasawa apologizes for broken kneecap

In today’s “Only in Japan” corner, Nippon Ham Fighters Opening Day Starter Naoyuki Uwasawa accepted a pay cut of 10 million yen ($94,000) because he missed half the season due to injury. The lefty, one of two starting pitchers used in a traditional fashion by Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama this season, had his season ended on June 18.

A drive off the bat of DeNA BayStars slugger Neftali Soto struck Uwasawa on the left knee cap and broke it.

On Friday, he said, “I’m afraid I was unable to carry my weight and was a bother to the team.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s like getting hit by a bus and then apologizing to the driver that hit you for making him late.

Here’s the Sponichi Annex story.