Named Eagles’ No. 2 starter
Masahiro Tanaka made his second start of the spring, allowing one run on two hits over three innings on Saturday, the Nikkan Sports reported. The run came on an RBI single when he fell behind slugging Yakult Swallows youngster Munetaka Murakami in the first inning of the Rakuten Eagles’ practice game against the Yakult Swallows in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture.
The outing was a marked improvement over Tanaka’s three-run, two-inning debut a week earlier. After the game, Eagles manager Kazuhisa Ishii announced that Hideaki Wakui, and not Tanaka, would be the Opening Day Starter on March 26, with Tanaka slated to go the following afternoon.
Kyodo News (English) also reported this story.
While on Thursday, the Eagles continued to cash in on the Tanaka boom with an elite fan club registration that includes one-day club and luxury box priviledges and goes for a mere $17,000. If you want one, too bad. The 10 memberships sold out in 14 minutes.
Eagles trade Ikeda for Yokoo
The Rakuten Eagles on Saturday traded journeyman right-hander Takahide Ikeda to the Nippon Ham Fighters for slugging reserve infielder Toshitake Yokoo.
Ikeda was relegated to a developmental contract after the 2019 season only to be reinstated on the 70-man roster. He was effective last year in the Eastern League, striking out 26 batters in 32-2/3 innings while walking only eight.
Yokoo, whose primary skill is hitting for power, has played most of his career at third base. In five seasons with the first team, Yokoo has slashed .214/.275/.343, according to Sponichi Annex, the attraction for the Eagles, who are overloaded with infielders, is his right-handed bat. The team dumped right-handed sluggers Stefen Romero and Jabari Blash, leaving big-bopping second baseman Hideto Asamura the primary offensive threat from the right side.
Fujinami on course for starting spot
Mercurial Hanshin Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami appears to be on track to open the season in the starting rotation for the first time in three years after allowing a run on three hits over three innings in a practice game against the Chunichi Dragons, Daily Sports reported.
“I was able to get ahead in counts with my fastball and cutter,” said the 26-year-old right-hander, who touched 98.2 mph. “And because my split was good, I was even able to get a groundout with my two-seamer. My balance was good overall, but I still sense I need to improve my command a little more.”
Irie building a case for rotation spot
Another pitcher who appears on course for a starting job when the season opens is 22-year-old DeNA BayStars rookie Taisei Irie. The team’s first pick in last autumn’s draft, Irie touched 92.6 mph over three scoreless innings against the Nippon Ham Fighters at the PL club’s spring park in Nago, Okinawa Prefecture, Daily Sports reported.
The right-hander gave up three runs in a two-inning spring debut, but first-year manager and former ace Daisuke Miura said the rookie is in the running for a rotation spot.
“He was really good. The big thing was how loose he was throwing. He’s pushed his way into the discussion for a starting job when the season starts.”
Lions welcome fans for practice game
It might have just been a practice game, but the Seibu Lions and Lotte Marines played in Kochi on Saturday, when fans were allowed to see the players for the first time this spring.
Training camps and games have been closed to the public in both Okinawa and Miyazaki prefectures, but the Lions received the go-ahead for fans to watch the game in Shikoku Island’s Kochi Prefecture and 2,059 turned out.