Second baseman Tetsuto Yamada will stay with the Yakult Swallows, multiple news outlets reported Thursday, opting to sign a seven-year 3.5 billion yen deal ($30 million) that will keep him with the Tokyo-based club in Japan’s Central League until he turns 35.
The seven-year deal matches the length of the one the SoftBank Hawks gave to their centerpiece center fielder, Yuki Yanagita, last autumn.
Yamada might not be the best second baseman on the planet as one colleague wrote, but until a few years ago he had be considered part of that discussion with his combination of speed, power, and defense.
According to Sponichi Annex, an official of the penurious club said, “If he had filed for free agency, then it would have been a competition to see who could offer the most money. It seems he didn’t want to be a bother to the team.”
The Swallows have long been one of Japan’s thriftiest teams. They rent their homepark, Tokyo’s historic Jingu Stadium, which prevents them from making much if any profit from the ballclub.
The fate of the ballpark is a little up in the air right now. Until a year ago, it was poised to be replaced by a new stadium on an adjacent lot and then demolished but numerous snags have since o
It will be closed next summer — if the Tokyo Olympics go forward — to be used as a staging area for the new national stadium down the street, while the Swallows play home games a few miles away at Tokyo Dome.
Yudai Ono, who appears to be a lock to win the Eiji Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, will not exercise his right to file for domestic free agency, a source told Kyodo News on Wednesday and will remain with the Central League’s Chunichi Dragons.
The Tokyo Chunichi Sports reports the 32-year-old lefty, who has been on some MLB teams’ radar, has agreed in principle to a three-year extension worth 300 million yen a year ($2.9 million), with additional performance incentives.
Swallows want to ground Yamada
The famously penurious Yakult Swallows have offered star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada a seven-year deal worth 4.5 billion yen ($43 million) a source has told Sponichi Annex.
The 28-year-old was the Central League’s 2015 MVP when he put up one of the most valuable season in NPB history. Three times he’s batted .300 with 30 home runs and 30 steals, something no other player has done more than once.
Yamada is eligible to file for domestic free agency. The Osaka native grew up a fan of the Yomiuri Giants, who one assumes might be happy to match that offer in order to have him hold down second base — not that manager Tatsunori Hara would be happy with anyone at second base, but that’s another story.
JBF moves to qualify youth coaches
The Baseball Federation of Japan announced Monday it will introduce a “certified baseball coach” qualification system for those coaching children under the age of 12 in either hardball or rubber “nanshiki” leagues according to the Nikkei Shimbun.
The certification will require applicants study — among other things, sportsmanship, training methods, and injury prevention. Japanese youth ball, with its focus on intense year-round practice and weekend tournaments, has long been a concern for reformers, who say many of Japan’s most talented players are wiped out as youngsters after suffering injuries that could easily have been prevented.
In its first guise, the qualifications will be voluntary, but the federation hopes they will become mandatory in the future, while expanding the qualification courses to other age groups.
Fujinami hits high note
Shintaro Fujinami had a good night at Koshien Stadium, striking out nine over five innings in a pitching duel against the DeNA BayStars’ Shinichi Onuki, who wrapped up his solid season with nine strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. The Tigers won 1-0, with former ace Atsushi Nomi getting the save.
Nomi, whom the Tigers said they will cut, got a farewell ceremony, while DeNA manager Alex Ramirez, who will be stepping down, received flowers from classy Tigers skipper Akihiro Yano.
Yanagi comes oh so close
Yuya Yanagi’s bid for a shutout crumbled in the ninth inning after he issued a two-out walk. The Chunichi Dragons right-hander surrendered two runs over 8-2/3 innings to improve to 6-7 in a 3-2 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Mazda Stadium.
Carp right-hander Allen Kuri (8-6) ended a solid season with a complete-game loss, while the Carp’s Ryosuke Kikuchi became the first second baseman in Japanese pro baseball history to make no errors in a season.
Active roster moves 11/11/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/21
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma said Monday that this season will be his last. The 39-year-old turned pro out of high school after being taken in the fifth round of the 1999 draft by the now defunct Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Iwakuma went 107-69 in Japan and 63-39 in six seasons with the Seattle Mariners. He joined the Yomiuri Giants as a free agent in 2019, when he appeared in two Eastern League games. He has not played this year.
When the Buffaloes merged with the Pacific League rival Orix BlueWave in 2004, triggering Japanese baseball’s lone labor action, Iwakuma was sold to the Rakuten Eagles after a long dispute with Orix.
One of the key issues that summer was whether the owners could unilaterally remake NPB’s established format of two six-team leagues after the owners accepted a merger without any plan about how to move forward with 11 teams.
After players went on strike and forced the cancellation of two weekends worth of games, the owners agreed to expedite the creation of an expansion franchise. This was something they originally argued was possible — and in so doing honor an age-old pro baseball tradition of owners telling something is impossible only to turn around and do just that when they have the will to do so.
Another part of the agreement, although not written, but spoken at the Nagoya Castle Hotel press conference, was a statement from Orix’s official representative that no Kintetsu player would be taken by Orix in the merger if they refused to play for the new club.
Iwakuma along with Kintetsu players rep Koichi Isobe was the most vocal of the Buffaloes about refusing to sign with Orix. But when the distribution draft was held to allow the new Rakuten Eagles access to surplus talent on the Orix and Kintetsu rosters, Iwakuma was among those protected from selection.
Orix’s explained its decision “We promised but you can’t expect us to honor it when a player is actually important to us.”
Iwakuma, however, stuck to his guns and refused to go to Orix, eventually forcing the team to sell him to the fledgling Eagles.
After the 2010 season, the Rakuten Eagles posted Iwakuma, but he returned to the Eagles after failing to reach a deal with the Oakland Athletics, who won the sole right to negotiate with him in the bidding.
Ties can be thrillers, too
Although not enjoyable because of its see-saw nature, the Hanshin Tigers’ 10-inning 1-1 tie with the Yakult Swallows on a Monday makeup game at Koshien Stadium was just a terrific game.
It was well pitched, well played, some good swings on tough pitches, a personal speed record by one of Japan’s fastest pitchers, two brothers pitching on opposing sides and both teams seeing their 10th-inning rallies on nice catches.
Joe Gunkel started for the Tigers and went five innings. He did well to allow only a run after allowing four hits in the fourth inning, but a sharply hit grounder to third with the bases jammed was turned for an inning-ending double play.
The game also saw the Tigers’ Justin Bour bunt in attempt to beat the shift before smashing a pitch to the left of second for a single.
Albert Suarez allowed an unearned run over six innings when pinch-hitter Kento Itohara did well to put the bat on the ball for an RBI game-tying single. Shintaro Fujinami hit 162 kph on the radar gun as he struck out the side in the top of the seventh.
Scott McGough answered with a 1-2-3 inning in the home half for the Swallows and so it went. Suarez’s younger brother Robert struck out two in the top of the ninth for the Tigers, while Swallows closer Taishi Ishiyama worked around a Jerry Sands single in the home half.
Both teams put the potential go-ahead run on base in the 10th, but the Swallows’ rally died with the runner on second as shortstop Ryuhei Kobata made an outstanding catch to snare a liner. The Swallows returned the favor in the bottom of the inning, when second baseman Tetsuto Yamada caught a one-out liner with the runner going for an easy game-ending double play.
Active roster moves 10/19/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/29
In an era when complete games are rare, the news on Wednesday was that Yudai Ono didn’t throw one. For the first time this season, the lefty won a game without going the distance, laboring through six shutout innings in the Chunichi Dragons’ 4-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Nagoya Dome.
Ono (8-5), announced as the Central League’s pitcher of the month for September earlier in the day, lacked the pin-point command that his been his calling card for much of the season. The Swallows loaded the bases with one out in the first, and he needed 26 pitches in the inning to keep them off the board.
“When I got to 26 pitches I knew at that point that it was going to be tough to finish up tonight,” said Ono, who handed a lead over to the Dragons bullpen for the second time this season.
On July 24, he left with a 2-1 lead at home after throwing 103 pitches over five innings, and the bullpen surrendered four runs in a 5-2 loss to the Dragons that left him 0-3 on the season. He then took things out of his relievers’ hands with five straight complete game victories followed by a complete game defeat.
“His pitching was all you could expect of an ace,” Dragons manager Tsuyoshi Yoda said.
Forty-year-old lefty Masanori Ishikawa (1-6) also pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the first but surrendered two runs on three third-inning singles by the Dragons import trio of Zoilo Almonte, Dayan Viciedo and Moises Sierra.
Almonte, who had three hits, homered in the seventh, and Tetsuto Yamada hit his 12th homer of the season in the eighth for the Swallows.
Dragons closer Raidel Martinez struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 17th save.
BayStars 6, Giants 3: Lopez strikes back
Jose Lopez broke a 2-2 tie with his second two-run home run in two nights at Tokyo Dome in the DeNA BayStars’ 6-3 win over the Yomiuri Giants.
Neftali Soto followed with his 19th homer. Shingo Hirata (1-0), the team’s second draft pick in 2013, allowed two runs for the BayStars over five innings to earn his first career win.
Lefties Edwin Escobar and Kenta Ishida pitched the seventh and eighth for the visitors, and Kazuki Mishima worked a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his 12th save.
Tsubasa Aizawa’s two-run fifth-inning double brought the Hiroshima Carp from a run down in their 9-3 win over the Hanshin Tigers at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Lions 4, Hawks 3
Takumi Kuriyama’s second RBI single tied it 3-3 in the seventh inning before the Seibu Lions took the lead against the SoftBank Hawks in a 4-3 win at MetLife Dome.
Eighth-inning doubles by Hotaka Yamakawa and Fumikazu Kimura off Livan Moinelo (1-2) completed the comeback.
The Hawks opened the scoring in the first inning on Yuki Yanagita’s 26th home run. Yanagita walked twice and singled and scored twice. Ernesto Mejia opened the Lions’ sixth with his 11th home run to make it a one-run game.
Marines 4, Buffaloes 1
Seiya Inoue hit a three-run first-inning homer off Andrew Albers (3-7) and Kazuya Ojima (7-6) allowed an unearned run over six innings as the Lotte Marines beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-1 at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The win was the Marines’ first since they switched out 11 members of the active roster on Tuesday and another on Wednesday due to a spate infections within the club.
The win moved the Marines to within one win of the Pacific League-leading Hawks.
Eagles 2, Fighters 2
Nippon Ham Fighters starter Drew VerHagen and Rakuten Eagles right-hander Hideaki Wakui each went six innings as their teams finished in a 2-2, 10-inning tie at Sapporo Dome.
Both pitchers juggled runners on base, with VerHagen allowing a run on five hits and four walks, and Wakui two runs on six walks and six hits.
The visitors tied it in the seventh on Hideto Asamura’s second RBI single of the game.
Dragons’ Ono a surprise winner
September’s monthly award winners were named on Wednesday, with Chunichi Dragons lefty Yudai Ono the Central League’s pitcher of the month despite his having lost two games.
Ono, who went 3-2, was joined by CL player (read “hitter”) of the month Takayuki Kajitani of the DeNA BayStars, and the PL’s honorees, Rakuten Eagles second baseman Hideto Asamura and Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Ono did everything except post a good win-loss record. His three wins were all two-hit shutouts, and that struck a chord with whoever it is who makes the selections, something unheard of in recent years.
I don’t think we should ignore wins, but if you did, it would be hard to see that any CL pitcher had a month in Ono’s league. Ono led the league in strikeouts, led the league in innings. His strikeout total of 42 was twice his combined hits and walks allowed.
The trouble over the past 15 years or so that I’ve been paying attention to these things is that they used to start with wins and pretty much ended there.
For years, my pitcher of the month search started by finding pitchers with three-plus wins with no more than one loss and an ERA under 3.50. If nobody qualified, then go through the relievers and see who didn’t allow a run, while getting eight or nine saves or holds. One month, Shohei Ohtani didn’t win despite going 2-0 with a 0.27 ERA in four starts with over 30 strikeouts.
I was surprised to find, however, that such wasn’t always the case. In June 2000 for example, the CL pitching honor went to Nate Minchey, after going 3-3 with a 2.02 ERA, when other candidates went 3-0 and 3-1 with worse ERAs.
Minchey also had a kicker in that we threw four of his starts on four-days rest, something not unheard of like it is now, but uncommon. The other two were on five days.
To get back to Ono, the award blurb mentioned that he was the first pitcher to throw three shutouts while allowing two or fewer hits in each since Hall of Famer Jiro Noguchi in October 1943.
Lotte OF Oka added to watch list
The Lotte Marines on Wednesday deactivated outfielder Hiromi Oka after determining that he too had been in close contact with pitcher Daiki Iwashita, the first player to test positive in the Pacific League team’s novel coronavirus cluster.
The Marines deactivated 11 players on Tuesday, seven who had tested positive and another four who had been in close contact with Iwashita on Friday’s flight back from Hokkaido, where they had traveled for a three-game series with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Iwashita is so far the only player to exhibit any symptoms. He was tested Saturday night after falling ill and developing a fever.
Active roster moves 10/7/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/17
Matt Moore (3-1) overcame an awkward start to allow two runs over 6-1/3 innings as the SoftBank Hawks departed from protocol by not practicing prior to crushing the Rakuten Eagles at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Moore struggled with the bottom of umpire Tomiji Iizuka’s strike zone and threw 24 pitches in a first inning as he pitched out of a two-on one-out jam. He surrendered Stefen Romero’s 18th home run with no outs and one on in the seventh, registered his sixth strikeout and then made his exit.
Ukyo Shuto had four hits, stole two bases–he leads the PL with 20–and scored twice for the Hawks, while Yuki Yanagita hit his 24th home run for the hosts.
Neal triggers Buffaloes stampede
The Orix Buffaloes scored six runs off Zach Neal (3-6) and routed the Seibu Lions 8-2 to earn Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka (1-3) his first win of the season at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Steven Moya, activated on Thursday, hit his first home run of the year to open the scoring in the first with a two-run shot into the second deck. Neal then surrendered four-straight hits followed by a sac fly in the five-run inning.
Yamaoka allowed two runs over six innings on eight hits and a walk while striking out six. Yutaro Sugimoto, one of the minor leaguers acting manager Satoshi Nakajima activated had four hits, scored two runs and drove in two for the Buffaloes.
Marines lose fight with reserves
Reserve outfielder Go Matsumoto singled in a run in the Nippon Ham Fighters’ five-run third inning and added a two-run home run in a bullpen day for the hosts in their 7-3 win over the Lotte Marines at Sapporo Dome.
Nick Martinez, who started the season in the rotation but has been relieving of late, allowed three runs over three innings, but Takayuki Kato (2-1) picked up the slack with three scoreless innings to earn the win while three others worked one scoreless run apiece.
The Fighters did most of their damage against lefty Toshiya Nakamura (2-3) tagging him for six runs, five earned, over 3-2/3 innings.
Austin powers Ino to victory
Tyler Austin’s sixth home run, a three-run second-inning moon shot, was the big blow in the DeNA BayStars’ 6-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants at Yokohama Stadium.
Shoichi Ino (6-4) worked six innings, and Spencer Patton, Kenta Ishida and Tomoya Mikami finished up to hand the Giants their second shutout loss since their magic number “appeared” on Tuesday. The 34-year-year-old Ino got the better of 20-year-old rookie right-hander Shosei Togo (7-4).
The BayStars win moved them to within 11 games of the defending champion Giants.
Swallows gut Carp
Naomichi Nishiura drove in four runs, including the game’s first with a sacrifice fly as the Yakult Swallows left a 14-5 mark on the Hiroshima Carp at Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium.
Albert Suarez (3-0) allowed four runs over six innings, striking out seven without issuing any of the walks that got him demoted in July when he was leading the CL in ERA, to earn his first win since July 1. Tetsuto Yamada brought the hosts back from a run down with his ninth homer, a two-run shot in the Swallows’ five-run fifth off Hiroki Tokoda (1-6).
Oyama kills Dragons in their lair
Yusuke Oyama homered twice and drove in six runs as the Hanshin Tigers overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Chunichi Dragons 8-4 at Nagoya Dome.
Former Dodger and Korean RBI king Jerry Sands batted fourth in front of Oyama and reached base four times. He walked twice, singled and was hit by a pitch and scored on both of his teammate’s home runs.
Matt Moore (2-1) overcame one costly mistake to allow two runs over seven innings and Alfredo Despaigne, getting a rare start in the outfield, had three hits including a tie-breaking home run in the SoftBank Hawks’ 4-2 win over the Seibu Lions on Friday.
Lions starter Zach Neal (3-5) was victimized by good swings and good footspeed in the Hawks’ two-run second at Fukuoka’s Casa de Pepe. Takuya Kai lined a leadoff double to center. Ukyo Shuto brought him home from third with one out with a well-hit single. Shuto stole second and third and scored on a sacrifice fly.
The Lions tied it in the third on a Corey Spangenberg infield single and a two-out Ernesto Mejia home run. Moore missed up with a 1-2 changeup and Mejia drove it over the short fence in left for his ninth home run in his 90th at-bat this season. Moore was visibly displeased and might have been penalized at Wimbledon had lip readers called in to report him to the match officials.
With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the inning, the broadcasters quoted Lions pitching coach Fumiya Nishiguchi about Neal pitching well despite the two runs allowed. Within seconds, however. Neal caught the bad-pitch bug. The right-hander hung a changeup to Alfredo Despaigne that the Cuban slugger miss-hit but lofted over the fence in left.
Moore struck out nine and walked two, while allowing three hits. Other than a walk to Hotaka Yamakawa, Spangenberg, who walked in the first, and Mejia, who doubled in the second, were the only Lions to reach base against the lefty.
Neal struck out six, while allowing seven hits over seven innings, and would have been a winner with the stuff he brought against a slightly less-potent team.
Livan Moinelo and Yuito Mori each worked a scoreless inning of relief with Mori earning his 20th save.
Nakamura outduels Yamaoka
Lotte Marines lefty Toshiya Nakamura (2-2) took a no-hitter into the eighth, and his teammates scored two unearned runs off the Orix Buffaloes Opening Day starter, Taisuke Yamaoka, in a 2-0 win at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The Marines managed just three hits against Yamaoka (0-3). Shohei Kato singled to open the Marines’ sixth for their first hit. An error put two on with no outs. Kato stole third, but Yamaoka struck out the next two batters and got ahead of Shogo Nakamura 1-2. The next pitch floated up in the zone and Nakamura did what most Japanese hitters are trained to do, hammer it up the middle. The ball got through the infield to make it 1-0, and Katsuya Kakunaka doubled in another run.
Ryoichi Adachi broke up Toshiya Nakamura’s no-hit bid with a leadoff double in the eighth, and Lotte skipper Tadahito Iguchi came and got his starter. Newly acquired right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura retired the next three batters, and closer Naoya Masuda worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his 23rd save.
Mogi knocks out Fighters in 10th
Eigoro Mogi’s two-run 10th-inning home run overturned a one-run deficit and lifted the Rakuten Eagles to a 5-4 walk-off win over the Nippon Ham Fighters in a rain-soaked game at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.
Eagles closer Alan Busenitz retired only one of the four batters he faced—on a sacrifice bunt–as the Fighters tied it in the ninth, but right-hander Tomohito Sakai retired both batters he faced to keep it tied. The visitors made it 4-3 in the 10th after a 30-minute rain delay.
Hideto Asamura opened the 10th with a single and Eagles manager Hajime Miki played for a tie by having hard-hitting Hiroaki Shimauchi sacrifice. Mogi, however, would have none of it.
Afterward, Mogi read the home run hitters’ post-game hero interview script to perfection.
“I have good hitters coming up behind me so I was just trying to get on base,” Mogi said, with some measure of honesty since Stefen Romero was on deck, although guys say that when anyone but the pitcher is following them.
Hara sets Giants managing record
Hayato Sakamoto’s eighth-inning home run broke a 1-1 tie as Tatsunori Hara earned his franchise-best 1,067th victory as Yomiuri Giants manager in a 2-1 win over the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.
Hara first managed the Giants in 2002 and is in his third stint with the team after quitting twice. He had been tied for the franchise lead with Tetsuharu Kawakami, who managed 1,866 games. Friday’s game was Hara’s 1,927th. In addition to being one of the club’s first superstars as a hard-hitting first baseman, Kawakami managed the Giants to nine-straight Japan Series championships from 1965 to 1973.
The game marked right-hander Albert Suarez’s return from exile with the Swallows’ farm team in Toda, Saitama Prefecture. Suarez had been deactivated after walking seven betters over six scoreless innings on July 7 to “regain his form.” On the farm, he had an ERA over 10.00 so it is unclear whether he accomplished that.
At Tokyo Dome, he allowed a run over six innings on five hits and a walk. Giants rookie Shosei Togo worked seven innings and allowed a solo home run to Tetsuto Yamada.
Yuki Nishi (6-3) struck out nine without a walk in a four-hit shutout, and Jerry Sands drove in a pair of runs for the Hanshin Tigers in their 4-0 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.
Sands went 3-for-4 to push his batting average above .300. He singled in Koji Chikamoto in the first to open the scoring. Chikamoto doubled in the third, stole third and came home on catcher Shogo Sakakura’s throwing error. Sands’ 18th home run made it 3-0 in the sixth.
Dragons squeak past BayStars
Cuban closer Raidel Martinez overcame a ninth-inning leadoff homer and two singles to hold the DeNA BayStars to one run and seal his 11th save in the Chunichi Dragons’ 3-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
Neftali Soto, who has led the Central League in home runs in each of his two seasons in Japan, went after Martinez’s first pitch and launched his 13th home run. But the right-hander struck out two of the last three batters he faced to end it.