1 week to go
With one week till Opening Day in a league where pitchers throw once every seven days, the final Friday of the preseason saw 10 of the 11 Opening Day starters throwing in their final warm-up games. The lone exceptions were the Nippon Ham Fighters, who didn’t send Naoyuki Uwasawa out, and the DeNA BayStars, who haven’t announced an Opening Day starter.
Even though the season is a week away, it’s still just the preseason. Aside from the stories documenting the strong outings of the big-name Opening Day starters, Tomoyuki Sugano, Shintaro Fujinami, Daichi Osera, Yoshinobu Yamamoto and so on here are some of the other headlines on Friday:
- Orix loses 3-1 as they can’t topple Fujinami even when he lacks control.
- Hawks win 6th straight as pinch-hitter Kawashima drives in winning run
- 2 hits push Dragons’ Neo toward 1st Opening Day start
- Tigers come from behind to remain in tie for 1st place in preseason
- Tigers’ Sato fails to homer, tie Nagashima’s preseason HR record
OK. Enough silliness and on to the actual news.
Saying goodbye to ‘free baseball’?
Nippon Professional Baseball is considering eliminating extra innings this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last year’s games were allowed to go 10 instead of 12, but with business being asked to close by 9 p.m. even after the lifting of the current state of emergency on Sunday, NPB is looking for ways to do its part.
Hawks’ Moinelo won’t be ready
The SoftBank Hawks middle relief ace, Cuban lefty Livan Moinelo, will begin the season on the farm, manager Kimiyasu Kudo said according to Hochi Shimbun.
“He’s just getting into the bullpen now,” Kudo said. “I think Opening Day would be a stretch.”
Moinelo arrived in Japan on Feb. 7, but spent two weeks in quarantine, when he was unable to throw.
Fujinami survives cut
At Osaka’s Kyocera Dome, Shintaro Fujinami cut his thumb in the first inning of the Hanshin Tigers’ 3-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes but still allowed only one run over four innings.
“I gouged my thumb pretty good with the nail of my index finger, and the bleeding didn’t stop,” said Fujinami according to Daily Sports.
Pitching coach Shinobu Fukuhara and a trainer went to the mound, and Fujinami came off for treatment after issuing a leadoff walk. He returned and surrendered a run on two singles. Steven Moya singled in the run with the first of his two hits for the Buffaloes.
Orix ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto allowed a run on four hits and three walks while striking out four over five innings.
Jefry Marte drew four walks in four trips to the plate for the Tigers.
‘No problem’ for Yamada
At Jingu Stadium, Yakult Swallows star second baseman Tetsuto Yamada, who has been suffering from the dreaded “lack of lower body fitness” this spring, homered and started at second base in an 8-4 win over the Rakuten Eagles, Nippon Television News reported.
“I don’t have any problems heading into the season, as long as I do what I need to do in the remaining two games and practice well,” said Yamada, who has struck out in five of his 12 plate appearances with two hits and a walk.
Yasuhiro Ogawa allowed three runs over 5-1/3 innings, while the Swallows lit up Eagles starter Hideaki Wakui for eight runs on four walks and seven hits over 3-2/3.
At Nagoya’s Vantelin Dome, Akira Neo continued to raise peoples hopes as the Dragons’ top 2018 draft pick doubled and singled in a 2-1 win over the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Takahide Ikeda, the 26-year-old right-hander acquired in the recent trade with the Rakuten Eagles for infielder Taketoshi Yokoo, continued to make the Fighters look smart with five scoreless innings. He now has 10 innings without a run this spring since the trade, during which he’s allowed five hits and two walks while striking out two.
At Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome, SoftBank Hawks starter Shuta Ishikawa struck out six over four scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Hiroshima ace Daichi Osera struck out six over six innings, running his preseason scoreless-inning streak to 15.
Former Arizona Diamondback Kevin Cron, who turned heads on Thursday by turning out for optional practice, went 0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly that gave Hiroshima a 1-0 seventh-inning lead.
The Hawks pitchers continued to strike batters out, whiffing 13.
Hamaguchi sharp for ‘Stars
At MetLife Dome, lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi allowed a run on four hits over four innings while striking out four for the DeNA BayStars in a 5-1 win over the Seibu Lions. His only run came on a home run by 2018 PL MVP Hotaka Yamakawa, his third of the spring.
Lions starter Kona Takahashi gave up two runs, one earned, on three hits and a walk. He struck out seven. The BayStars, however, took a stick to reliever Reed Garrett in the ninth, scoring three runs on four hits and a walk.
At Tokyo Dome, Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano struck out three over three scoreless innings in a 34-pitch warmup, while Kota Futaki struck out three over five scoreless innings for the Lotte Marines in their 3-2 win.
Frank Herrmann threw a scoreless inning of relief for the Marines, while Thyago Vieira did the same for the Giants.