Tag Archives: preseason

Open and shut: March 6, 2020 – Edwards’ home debut in Japan

Right-hander Jon Edwards made his debut at Japan’s baseball mecca, Koshien Stadium outside Osaka on Friday. The normally loud park was subdued by the fact that Nippon Professional Baseball’s spring exhibition season is being held behind closed doors to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Pandora’s balks

Edwards issued a walk and followed with a balk, for failing to observe Japan’s dictum that pitchers pause for at least three seconds before delivering to the plate. Edwards halted for about 1.5 and nodded in agreement, so it seemed clear he’d been warned about that one.

It’s not just foreign pitchers who run afoul of the rule either. Former New York Mets pitcher Masato Yoshii said checked his delivery with the umps when he returned to play in NPB. But despite getting assurances in camp during interasquad games, he was flagged for a balk in his preseason debut.

Edwards’ game was otherwise uneventful. He located his fastball fairly well, his slider and curve not so well. After the game ended, however, he returned to the mound — almost as if he was going to take part in a post game hero interview, of which there aren’t because there are no fans.

Instead, he went out to talk to the grounds crew. At first I thought he had an issue with the mound, but it appeared he lost something on the mound and wanted help finding it.

Hit it hard and make it fly

There were no fans for the afternoon game between the hometown Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters, but for some reason, the scoreboard operator displayed the lyrics to Jerry Sands‘ cheer song.

“Hit it hard, make it fly Jerry. Strike a powerful blow. Out to left, out to right, home run Jerry. Jerry Sands let’s go. Jerry Sands let’s go.”

Just thought you’d want to know that.

Sands popped up to second and struck out looking twice. Fellow newcomer Justin Bour walked in three plate appearances.

Nearby in Osaka

The Orix Buffaloes and Yomiuri Giants sent their Opening Day starters to the mound at Kyocera Dome in Osaka. Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano and his elaborate new take-back surrendered a solo homer to Orix’s fifth draft pick from last autumn, 22-year-old infielder Shoki Katsumata that accounted for all the scoring.

Orix starter Taisuke Yamaoka‘s pitches looked very crisp as he struck out eight over seven innings.

Adam Jones hit the ball hard a couple of times, once for a high fly to the warning track the other a single, while big swinging Giants outfielder Israel Mota struck out twice as the ump gave Sugano some good calls on the outside edge. Mota has chased a lot but at least he was trying to stay in the zone.

Hard-throwing former Mariners and White Sox reliever Thyago Vieiera threw some very straight fastballs and a slider that didn’t move a lot.


Elsewhere in games without fans

Because Rakuten plays outdoors in the northeast, the Eagles have a hard time getting clubs to play preseason games in their cold hometown, so they have to make do.

Hosting the Chunichi Dragons in Shizuoka, Takahiro Norimoto struck out four over five innings, while new Eagle Stefen Romero singled and doubled. Dayan Viciedo singled and doubled for the Dragons.

In Hiroshima, Seibu Lions Opening Day starter Zach Neal said he was trying out a few things and was satisfied after allowing two runs over 4-1/3 innings against the Carp.

New Lions import Reed Garrett faced the last five hitters in Hiroshima’s order and struck out three of them in a perfect outing.

Open and shut: March 3, 2020 – Sarfate returns to Fukuoka mound

Dennis Sarfate returned to the mound in Fukuoka on Tuesday for the first time in nearly two years. In one of five preseason games (“Open sen” in Japanese) played Tuesday — all behind closed doors — the Hawks took on the Yakult Swallows in an interesting contest.

Here are the game highlights, courtesy of PL TV.

As he has in the videos he’s been posting to social media that past year or so, Sarfate looked comfortable throwing although was nowhere near regular season velocity, touching 143 kilometers per hour compared to his average fastball velocity in 2017 of 153.3. He allowed a single and got two flyouts.

Rick van den Hurk threw 3-2/3 innings for the Hawks, and looked ready for Opening Day, with his fastball touching 150 kph, and good command of all his pitches. Van den Hurk pitched in just three games last year during the regular season.

Swallows starter Hirotoshi Takanashi also looked ready for Opening Day with generally good movement and command of his fastball. Although he was a little inconsistent and a little lucky, he threw five solid innings.

Peoples makes spring debut

New import Michael Peoples made his preseason debut with the DeNA BayStars, allowing three runs over three innings in which he gave up a home run, walked a batter and hit a batter against the Rakuten Eagles in Shizuoka.

Tyler Austin resumed his hit parade with a double and a single in three at-bats, raising his spring exhibition average to .615 with three homers and three triples in 15 plate appearances. The Eagles’ Jabari Blash hit his second homer of the spring.

Lions’ Takahashi goes 5 strong

Kona Takhashi, who for an instant had been in the running to start the Seibu Lions’ opener according to manager Hajime Tsuji, struck out six over five scoreless innings against the Chunichi Dragons.

Daisuke Yamai, who at the age of 41 is trying to secure some starts this season, showed he has more work to do. He walked three while allowing four runs over two innings of relief.

NPB preseason open and shut

Nippon Professional Baseball on Wednesday said it would hold all 72 of its remaining preseason games — called “Open” Games in Japanese — behind closed doors in a measure to restrict the spread of the new coronavirus. Also affected were minor league preseason “instructional” games.

According to worldometers, there were 172 confirmed cases of the virus in Japan, and concern is growing about the possibility that the outbreak will affect this summer’s Olympics.

The Japanese government has issued a report saying the next two weeks will be critical in slowing the spread of the pneumonia-causing virus. The move comes on the same day that Japan Rugby’s Top League postponed 16 games over two weekends, and the nation’s pro soccer establishment, the J-League, suspended all games until March 15.

Later that day, the Yomiuri Giants announced their two preseason games on Feb. 29 and March 1 at Tokyo Dome would be played without fans. The Giants have been urging other teams hosting their preseason games to also bar fans.

Because of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, Nippon Professional Baseball has scheduled a break from July 21 — the day after the final All-Star game, and Aug. 13. The season was scheduled to open a week early, on March 20, with Japan Series Game 7 now slated for Nov. 15.

In 2011, the season started on April 12, two weeks later than scheduled. Two Pacific League parks, in Sendai and Chiba, suffered damage from the March 11 earthquake, while transportation, water and electricity were disrupted in many parts of eastern Japan.

Because none of the Central League parks were affected by the quake, that league, led by the Giants, wanted to push ahead with its plan to open the season in March, but the public outrage that followed the CL owners’ lack of sympathy forced them to wait two weeks.

The Giants being a leader in this issue is seen by some as the organization having learned its lesson from 2011, but I’m skeptical.

Having said that, this swift action is a nice change from the dithering and obfuscation after the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that hit the 2011 season. No official game had ever been closed to the public before, so this is a pretty weighty step for a body that has been absurdly bad at making decisions.

The teams are hopeful to get started on March 20, but what the situation will be like then is unpredictable.

The preseason runs until March 15, while the two minor leagues, the Western and Eastern leagues, open on March 13 and 14, respectively.