Tag Archives: Neftali Soto

NPB games, news of June 28, 2019

League play resumed in Japan on Friday with four games. All six Pacific League teams were in action, while the Hiroshima Carp, who fell out of first place during interleague were in Yokohama in the Central League’s only game.

Pacific League

Hawks 7, Fighters 5

At Sapporo Dome, Kodai Senga and Kohei Arihara, the two hottest PL pitchers from the start of the season, showed some superb pitches, but were inconsistent in their location in a pitcher’s duel that turned out nothing like the announcers promised in the buildup.

Senga walked four and struck out a season-low five and gave up a bunch of hard-hit balls that allowed him to only give up one run over six innings.

Arihara, who started the season as a machine, getting everybody to swing and miss at his changeup, also gave up some shots while walking three and striking out four as he allowed three runs over six innings.

Here are the Hawks, Fighters highlights.

Marines 6, Eagles 5

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Rakuten had to call on closer Yuki Matsui, who did not see action on Tuesday because they wanted to give him six days off before pitching again perhaps?

Anyway, the lefty couldn’t find the strike zone. He got the first two batters out after falling behind but walked the next three. Afterward he said, “I should have been tougher with the bases loaded.”

Here are Marines, Eagles highlights.

Buffaloes 4, Lions 0

At Metlife Dome, Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out 11 and walked two to win a tight pitchers’ duel with the Lions’ Tatsuya Ishii, who allowed one run over eight innings. It was the 20-year-old Yamamoto’s first career shutout and his first win since May 28.

Here are the Buffaloes-Lions highlights.

Central League

BayStars 13, Carp 3

At Yokohama Stadium, Jose Lopez and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo ruined my story about Alejandro Mejia’s first big game of the season after getting promoted back from Hiroshima’s farm team.

Lopez and Tsutsugo each belted a pair of homers while headline writers discarded themes such as “BayStars drop bombs on Hiroshima,” while Neftali Soto, last year’s CL champ, hit his league-leading 23rd home run.

Alejandro Mejia

My minor league season records go back to 1991, and during that span only eight players have hit 19 or more home runs in a Western League season. The WL is a notorious pitcher’s league with huge parks and low averages. Of those eight, four have become certified power hitters in NPB, Takahiro Okada, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Kenji Jojima and Xavier Batista. Batista probably had the most impressive run of any of those guys, hitting 21 in 177 at-bats two years ago.

Mejia hit 20 last year in 300 plate appearances and joined the Carp first team at the end of interleague having hit 19 in 201 at-bats this spring in the minors.

In Friday’s game, Mejia, playing third with Batista at first, went 3-for-4 with a home run. So that’s a start after going hitless in three at-bats in Wednesday’s interleague finale against Rakuten.

Where have you gone, Sal Maglie?

Kennys Vargas” class=”wp-image-3391″/>

OK. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Paul Simon’s iconic line from “Mrs. Robinson,” but how often does one come across a baseball player connected with hair cuts and shaves?

Maglie, of course, was known as “the barber” because he gave threw up and in, giving batters close shaves. In that respect, Maglie’s closest NPB comp was Hall of Famer Masaji “razor” Hiramatsu, known for buzzing batters with his “shoot” — a four-seam fastball that’s thrown slightly off center to give it arm-side run.

But from this year, NPB has a real barber, former Minnesota Twin Kennys Vargas, has joined the Lotte Marines and is open for business. In a story that ran in Sankei Sports, Vargas said he’s been cutting hair since he was 13 and has given haircuts to Puerto Rico compatriot Neftali Soto of the DeNA BayStars. In a video shared by the Marines, we get a look at the big man in action, giving Marines communications director Kajiwara a trim.

Japan jones

Vargas said he’d been trying to get to Japan for three years, and only got his opportunity after spending all of 2018 with the Twins’ Triple-A club. With his wife and two young children, a five-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son, set to join him, Vargas is keen to learn the game here so he can stick.

“Three years ago, they (Japanese teams) started looking for me. I was playing for the Minnesota Twins,” he said. “But the Twins wouldn’t let me go. Last year, I spent the whole year in Triple-A, so I decided to go to Japan because I didn’t want to spend be in Triple-A. I knew I had the talent to make some money in Japan for my family. That’s when the decision was made.”

It will not be easy making the grade in a six-team league for a player who struck out in nearly a third of his Triple-A at-bats. Few players have succeeded here having done that, with Wily Mo Pena being about the best, and even then it was a tough slog.

“You have to forget about the United States,” Vargas said. “You’re in Japan. You have to deal with the situation in Japan. Forget about the States. As soon as my family gets here, I’ll concentrate 100 percent on what I’m doing. I’ll see America in October.”

“They study a lot, the hitters, the pitching, so you need to be mentally strong to try and produce at this level. ‘He can’t hit inside, so let’s throw him inside. Or throw him offspeed. They’re always trying to figure out, and you figure them out.”

In addition to having a few friends playing ball in Japan and an experienced teammate in Brandon Laird, Vargas admitted to having a mentor in former Hawks outfielder and Puerto Rican compatriot Pedro Valdes.

“My friend,” Vargas said of Valdes. “He helped me a lot. He’s like my secret hitting coach. When he saw me, and he saw me doing something wrong, he called me right away. He said, ‘Don’t lower your hands too much.’ He’s always there for me.”

“There are a lot of opportunities for guys here. There used to be just two foreigners on the major league level, but it’s way better. This is a great show in Japan. The stadiums are good. The fans are great. Coming to Japan is going to be a good decision, as soon as you start hitting.”