Mizuki Hori, Japan’s first true opener, opened seven games for about a month starting on July 15. On Aug. 15 — as if manager Hideki Kuriyama had a month time limit on the experiment, Hori returned to middle relief.
The first time he went back to middle relief was the final game of a nine-game losing streak. Hori opened three of those losses, although he did not allow a run in any of them.
He pitched effectively two more times in middle relief before giving up seven runs over his next four short outings. He was deactivated on Aug. 24.
The only mention of what happened to Hori came in the daily player activation and deactivation notices.
I think there may be a story here, but no one is talking about it. Did the starting pitchers rebel and force Kuriyama’s hand? Did Kuriyama give up on the opener, considering it might have been a proposal from the front office? Did the Fighters analytics team spot something in Hori’s data that indicated an injury of some type?
The first two of Hori’s three opening acts during the losing streak saw a “second starter” follow him to the mound and take the loss. The first was Yuki Saito, who allowed four runs in three innings on Aug. 6, the second Bryan Rodriguez, who gave up two runs over five innings on Aug. 11. The third was a bullpen day in which Johnny Barbato followed with two scoreless innings.