The kotatsu league: VerHagen poised to sign with Fighters

The Nippon Ham Fighters announced they have come to terms with Detroit Tigers right-hander Drew VerHagen on Tuesday. In a Japanese language press release, VerHagen was quoted as saying he was eager to be coming to Japan, having heard so much about the country from others.

No contract terms were announced by the Fighters. The following is a translation of manager Hideki Kuriyama’s comments relayed by the club:

“Without a doubt, as we go through the process of regrouping, one of our absolute needs was for a starting pitcher. VerHagen has the quality to be considered in an MLB team’s starting pitching plans for next season. We had a number of options available to us and are very happy to have been able to have him join the Fighters. He’s thrown as hard as 158 kph (98.2 mph) with a good sinker, a power curve, a slider, and a changeup. He’s a very well balanced pitcher. I’ve heard he’s big on preparation and so perhaps he can adjust quickly to Japanese baseball. He has the potential to be a big right-handed rotation anchor for us, and I’m grateful to our U.S. based scouts.”

Kuriyama didn’t mention that FanGraphs has called some of his pitches splitters. A lot of people don’t know this but being able to throw six pitches in competition makes you eligible for Japanese citizenship since you will be indistinguishable from the other pitchers in NPB.

Last season, the Fighters became the first modern Japanese team to use an opener and a “short starter” — a starting pitcher whose job was to go through the order either once or twice, a plan which caused former New York Mets pitcher Masato Yoshii to end his second stint as the club’s pitching coach after yet another policy disagreement with Kuriyama.The

The Detroit News had a nice writeup of this story.

Marines land coveted reserve outfielder Fukuda

The Marines have landed — a free agent outfielder — that is. After failing to land two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru a year ago, Lotte has succeeded in getting SoftBank Hawks fourth outfielder Shuhei Fukuda, a bench player in Fukuoka largely because of the Hawks deep frontline talent in the outfield.

According to Sports Nippon, the 30-year-old Fukuda selected the Marines because of his relationship with head coach Yusuke Torigoe, who had been with him as a Hawks coach until 2018, saying, “I’ve been able to make it this far, largely because of him.”

The Seibu Lions, Rakuten Eagles, Chunichi Dragons and Yakult Swallows had also been pursuing Fukuda.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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