Rakuten Eagles right-hander Masahiro Tanaka observed the first anniversary of Hall of Fame catcher and manager Katsuya Nomura’s death on Thursday, Sponichi Annex reported. Nomura was Tanaka’s first manager when he turned pro out of high school.
“I didn’t have a real sense of what was going on,” said Tanaka, who revealed he’d have wanted a healthy Nomura to see him back in a Rakuten uniform. “He taught me everything about life in the pros. I wonder what he would say about the timing of my return (to Japan).”
“If only he could see me doing this uniform proud and fighting for the team to the very end.”
Lotte lifts Sasaki’s breaking ball bullpen ban
Roki Sasaki threw his fourth bullpen of the spring on Thursday, throwing 30 pitches—including his slider and for the first time, the team having lifted its prohibition on him throwing anything but fastballs, Sponichi Annex reported.
“My forkball was really good,” he said. “Since turning pro I’ve had to really labor on my forkball, but I think I may now seeing the results of that effort.”
Sasaki, who was clocked at over 100 mph at the start of his senior year in high school in 2019, has yet to pitch in an official game since turning pro a year ago. He is slated to work out with the minor league team after the first team moves on from Okinawa’s Ishigakijima and throw live BP before rejoining the first team for the remainder of camp.
Kitabeppu: Marathon man Kuri’s got it
Manabu Kitabeppu a Hall of Fame former ace of the Hiroshima Carp, had a My Fair Lady kind of response to 29-year-old Allen Kuri’s 347-pitch bullpen last week, he wrote in a piece for Daily Sports on Thursday.
“I thought it was a bit much, but from what I saw on the video, his form was very loose and he only looked like he was really exerting himself at the finish. Usually, if you go all out, your pitches will be lacking by the time you get to 250. That’s what I saw from Kuri in the past.”
“But he used his lower body really well, so well that it looked like his arm was just swinging downward, smoothly and easily. I think he’s learned a lot over the past year. His form and his balance are better, and I think he’s getting the hang of this.”
OK. He didn’t say, “Bye George, I think he’s got it.” But he came close.
Buffaloes’ Higgins tests positive
The Orix Bufaloes announced Thursday that right-hander Tyler Higgins has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Nikkan Sports. Higgins, who debuted in Japan last season, tested negative before leaving the States on Jan. 13 and again when he arrived in Japan on Jan. 17.
Tigers Women hold first workout
The Hanshin Tigers Women held their first practice on Thursday, a national holiday in Japan, at the Tigers’ minor league facility in Naruohama, Hyogo Prefecture, the Daily Sports reported. All 17 players turned out and practiced and did weight training for three hours while observing coronavirus protocols.
Going forward, the team will have weekend practices at Naruohama and in the indoor facility at the Tigers’ main park, Koshien Stadium. The team is planning to enter the Kansai women’s hardball federation’s tourney.
Swallows teen gets boost from Furuta
Hall of Fame catcher Atsuya Furuta, the pillar of five Yakult Swallows championship teams between 1992 and 2001, has been working with his old club as a spring training instructor, and on Thursday caught rookie Yasunobu Okugawa, the team’s first pick in the 2019 draft.
Prior to the bullpen session, Furuta said he felt Okugawa had the tools to be a pitcher of the same caliber as Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano. Okugawa said he was really nervous throwing to Furuta, who said afterward, “I thought he could become like Sugano, but since he himself is aiming toward being like Masahiro Tanaka, that’s the kind of pitcher I hope he develops into.”