Japan’s baseball week got off to a banging start with a matchup between two starting pitchers coming off shutouts, a two-time Sawamura Award winner against a rookie with one game under his belt, and a two-time Sawamura Award winner coming off a tough loss. Ready?
Swallows 1, Giants 0: At Tokyo Ugly Dome, lefty Taichi Yamano (1-0), Yakult’s second-round signing from the 2020 draft, worked seven scoreless innings in his first major league game since his abbreviated 2021 debut, striking out two, walking one over seven scoreless innings. Tomoyuki Sugano was almost as good, allowing one run over eight innings on six hits and a walk. When Yamano was done, Noboru Shimizu and Kazuto Taguchi each retired three straight. Taguchi, who was traded from Yomiuri to Yakult for a year’s supply of resin bags in 2021, notched his CL-leading 25th save.
“He changed speeds and at times was able to work low in the zone and get a basketful of ground balls,” manager Shingo Takatsu said. “He far exceeded my expectations.”
The hero interview, too, exceeded Yamano’s expectations. He was probably only prepared to take the winning ball from his pocket when instructed and say “My parents” when asked who he would give it to.
Instead, he got questions about his game and what went right, and the poor guy was a deer in the headlights. The hardest part was when asked about his tough struggles.
A second-round pick in 2020, Yamano allowed seven runs in 1-1/3 innings in his major league debut, and pitched in just one Eastern League game that season. After pitching in just six games in 2021, he was released and re-signed to a non-roster developmental contract. This year, the 24-year has a 1.75 ERA in 51-1/3 innings but has walked 21 batters while striking out 19. He was re-signed to a standard contract in July.
“You had some tough days?” he was asked, and began to wipe tears from his face before saying. “There were stretches of days where I didn’t want to play baseball anymore.”
Continue reading NPB news: Aug. 1, 2023