Tag Archives: Takashi Toritani

NPB wrap 3-27-21

Hawks overcome Marines in defensive struggle

“Much of what we think of pitching is actually defense.”

-Bill James

This was evident on Saturday afternoon at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, where shortstop Kenta Imamiya starred for SoftBank in their 3-2 Pacific League win over the Lotte Marines, posting a pair of fielding highlights while playing a big role on the offensive side.

Marines starter Manabu Mima impressed, holding the four-time defending Japan Series champs to a run on five hits and three walks over six innings. SoftBank, however, turned an awful outing by submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi into a quality start with two big plays from Imamiya and another from second baseman Ukyo Shuto.

Takahashi hit two batters in the first and walked in two more. With two outs and one run in, Imamiya dove into the hole and threw out Takashi Toritani from his knees. At 39, Toritani no longer runs like he once did, but it was a sparkler nonetheless.

With no outs in the fourth, Toritani again looked like he was going to get the Marines’ first hit on a grounder into right, but the speedy Shukyo cut it off and threw him out. The Marines took a 2-0 lead in the fifth on a Takashi Ogino double and a Leonys Martin single. With one out and a runner on first, Imamiya robbed Hisanori Yasuda of an infield single to limit the damage.

Imamiya, who doubled and scored in the sixth, was one-upped in the seventh. With two outs and the bases loaded, 20-year-old Marines center fielder Kyota Fujiwara robbed him of a three-run double. With the Lotte outfield playing shallow as Japanese teams do with a runner on second, Imamiya lined a pitch from Yuki Karakawa to medium deep center, where Fujiwara ran it down and caught it with a leap.

The Hawks’ Cuban connection delivered the tying run in the eighth against Frank Herrmann. Yurisbel Gracial, whose single plated Imamiya in the sixth, singled with one out in the eighth. Pinch-runner Taisei Makihara stole second on a run-and-hit strikeout that forced the hard-to-strike-out Akira Nakamura to wave at a pitch out of the zone. But the steal allowed Makihara to fly home on Alfredo Despaigne’s two-out single.

Hawks closer Yuito Mori worked a 1-2-3 ninth. Shuto singled in the ninth against Marines closer Naoya Masuda (0-1), took third on a bounced pick-off throw and scored on a fly to deep center against an outfield that was pulled in shallow, analyst Chihro Hamana said,  “like a little league game.”

At MetLife Dome, 19-year-old lefty Hiroya Miyagi, the Orix Buffaloes’ top signing from the 2018 draft, struck out eight while allowing a run over seven innings in a 3-2 win over the Seibu Lions. With the game tied 1-1 in the fourth, Adam Jones doubled and scored after a Steven Moya single. Jones also walked twice. Reed Garrett struck out two in a scoreless eighth for the Lions.

At Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park, Yuki James Nomura broke a 2-2 third-inning tie with a two-run single as the Nippon Ham Fighters whacked the Rakuten Eagles 9-4. With Masahiro Tanaka out three weeks due to a soleus (calf) muscle injury, the Eagles dropped the season’s first bullpen game rather than move Sunday’s starter, rookie Takahisa Hayakawa up a day.

Kensuke Kondo singled twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Fighters, while Eagles reliever Alan Busenitz gave up three runs in the ninth in the 4-hour, 26-minute game.

In the Central League, Hanshin Tigers rookie Teruaki Sato capped a four-run first inning off new Yakult Swallows lefty Kazuto Taguchi (0-1) with a two-run homer, his first hit as a pro, if we don’t count his first pro hit in practice games or his first pro hit in preseason exhibitions. Sato also walked and singled in the 9-5 win at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.

Jefry Marte walked twice and scored twice for the Tigers, while Jerry Sands, who homered twice on Opening Day, delivered a first-inning sac fly, while catcher Ryutaro Umeno doubled twice, singled and drove in three runs.

At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri Giants right-hander Shosei “Admiral” Togo (1-0) allowed a run over seven innings while striking out six in a 10-5 win over the DeNA BayStars. Thyago Vieira allowed the visitors three consolation runs in the ninth, while Takayuki Kajitani’s first hit as a Giant was a sixth-inning grand slam against the club he left as a free agent.

Giants-BayStats highlights

At Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium, Allen Kuri (1-0) struck out six while allowing a run over six innings as the Hiroshima Carp beat the Chunichi Dragons 4-1. Kosuke Tanaka homered to tie it 1-1 in the bottom of the first, while Hiroshima took the lead for good on RBI singles by Seiya Suzuki and 22-year-old catcher Shogo Sakakura, who also doubled from the No. 5 hole.

New Carp Kevin Cron went 0-for-2 with a sixth-inning walk that contributed to Hiroshima’s final run. Carp rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi, their first-round signing from last year’s draft, worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his first save.

Sugano’s decision

Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano will be back in Japan for 2021, and though he probably is not the best pitcher in Japan right now as some in the U.S. media have labeled him in the crush for hyperbola, he’s not far from the best.

I speculated on some of the reasons why a Japanese star should not just leap into a major league deal, and Sugano himself cited the direction MLB is going during the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Japan got a bit of perspective.

“It wasn’t something I could be 100 percent satisfied,” Sugano told Japan’s media.

His agent, Joel Wolfe, had a media availability, a portion of which was aired on TV in Japan and that clip was then shared on Twitter.

  • Wolfe: “It was very tough.”
  • How many teams made a clear offer?
  • Wolfe: “Six. He had several four-year offers, three-year offers and two-year offers.. Our expectation and his expectation what a fair contract was a bit different. And I ended up having to call that general manager with two minutes to go. “
  • Wolfe: “He was able to draw on his relationships with (Yu) Darvish and (Kenta) Maeda. They all offered so much assistance and advice. I don’t think he will ever regret…”
  • Wolfe: “I think the major league teams are really going to regret…”

Although Wolfe implied money kept the two sides apart, it could well be that the money offered was not enough to outweigh Sugano’s concerns about playing in the States now.

Waseda University manager Satoru Komiyama, for years the workhorse of the Lotte Marines rotation, and briefly a New York Met, threw in his two cents. In a Facebook comment, he said considerations of money shouldn’t matter if one really desires to work from a major league mound. He suggested that agents, not players, were the ones who made a big deal about contract value.

Here’s a Kyodo News‘ 2019 interview with Komiyama

When veteran Japanese stars take pay cuts to play in the majors, or who turn their back on minor-league deals to return to lucrative contracts with their old teams in Japan, there are questions.

I have questioned the quick U-turns of Takashi Toritani, Nobuhiro Matsuda and Ryosuke Kikuchi. Each espoused a great desire to play abroad, but at the same time prioritized a happy exit from their Japanese clubs. None of them would negotiate past a certain date, they said, because that would leave their clubs back home in a bind about whether or not they would be available for the upcoming season.

To be sure, Matsuda’s case was unusual. A Japanese attorney negotiating his next contract with the Hawks complicated his American agent’s negotiations by talking directly to the San Diego Padres’ people on the ground in Fukuoka.

Every deal, however, is unique in its way because every player has different concerns for his career, for his life off the field and for his family. It’s probably never JUST about money.

Sugano really wanted to play in the majors. Either that or he’s been really good at making people think that for years.

On Sunday, SoftBank Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, who would have given some part of his anatomy for a chance to play in the majors when he was young, told TBS network’s Sunday Morning, “He absolutely wanted to go.”

“I believe he wanted to see how well his pitching skill would play in America.”

Sugano has reportedly received a four-year offer from Yomiuri with annual opt-outs allowing him to go a year from now if he likes, although he could also sign a one-year deal and file for international free agency if he can compile the necessary service time.

“Is next year the best chance for him given his age? I think so,” Oh said. “But I think he really wanted to do it now.”