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01/15/2004 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: Kazuo Matsui in MLB Gets Ichiro's Competitive Juices Going; Kiyohara Slammed"

Team Reports

Hanshin Righthander Keiichi Yabu revealed Thursday that he could end up in MLB next season if any offers from stateside organizations come his way. Yabu is a free agent after the end of the coming season, but he will also be 36, making it unlikely that he will be offered more than the MLB minimum salarywise. Yabu has quizzed former teammate Tsuyoshi Shinjo about MLB life and is reportedly in the latter stages of taking on an agent...Meanwhile, rightfielder Shinjiro Hiyama, 34, averred that he would like to play at least another six seasons....Manager Akinobu Okada urged righthander Hideki Irabu to focus on trusting his stuff rather than worrying about the differences between Japanese pro ball and MLB. Okada is apparently giving up on having Irabu hold runners well and curing his tendency to tip his pitches and instead hopes that the jellyfish can bull his way through Central League batting orders. In fact, considering how the former Yankee and Expo was torched by the Daiei Hawks in the Japan Series, one wonders, now that CL orders are used to him, if he will meet a similar fate during the regular season.

Chunichi Call it Dragons classic, as the Nagoya side has returned to an older style uni from the one they had used the last 18 years that resembles the Dodgers'. You can see a photo Here.By the way, for those of you living in Japan, you can get both a replica uni top and cap with Manager Hiromitsu Ochiai's number 66 on it for a ridiculously low total of 6600 yen (about $60.00) for a very limited time. You can order them from the Dragons' online store at:

Yomiuri First baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara said that he is considering skipping the club's weekling training camp in Guam in order to take it a little easier on his knees. Manager Tsuneo Horiuchi has stated that everyone would be expected to go through the full practice menu, including Kiyohara, whose 2003 season was sabotaged by hamstring problems. A Giants training coach said that the burly slugger looks fine to him, but Kiyohara is also reportedly concerned about the large temperature disparity between the warm Pacific island and Yomiuri's Miyazaki camp, which is under the cold Japanese winter, could end up leading to injury. A final decision will be made later on....Kiyohara, though, has found himself under a cloud, at least, as the chairman of Yomiuri electronic flagship Nippon Television (NTV), Ichiro Ujiie, says he doesn't expect the ex-Lion to see much regular playing time with Roberto Petagine in the fold. This, of course, could only fuel further the speculation that Kiyohara's days in Tokyo are numbered and a return to Seibu is in the offing.

Yakult According to an Associated Press report, scouts from 24 MLB teams, including the Angels, Dodgers, Mets and Yankees, were at a workout by Swallows closer Shingo Takatsu at Concordia College Thursday. The righthanded sidearmer threw approximately 40 pitches at about half speed. So far, no offers have been made. Takatsu reports to Yakult's spring camp February 1st.

Yokohama Team scouts and officials made another pilgrammage to Meiji University in hopes of swaying pitcher Yasuhiro Ichiba to join them for the November draft. Yomiuri and Hanshin are also interested in the youngster.

Daiei Manager Sadaharu Oh says that new acquisition Lindsay Gulin was brought in mainly as insurance in case starter Brandon Knight goes down with injury or ineffectiveness. The Hawks already have four other foreign players and, with the addition of Hector Mercado soon to come, Gulin may spend a great deal of time in the minors, especialy since Mercado may become the closer.

Nippon Ham Lefthander Yusaku Iriki says that he is fully healed from the leg problems that sidelined him for a substantial part of last season....According to Sankei Sports, versatile veteran Yukio Tanaka is on the verge of some significant marks. He needs 99 hits for 2000 and entrance into the Meikyukai. If he can amass 28 doubles, he would slot in ninth on the all time two bagger list. If he can drive in 29 more runs and score another 69, he would attain 1000 lifetime in each category. He also needs another 23 homers for 300. In addition, when he plays in his 18th game, it will be 2000 altogether for him, only the third man ever to do that in club (including its Kyuei/Tokyu/Toei Flyers days) annals.

Orix Manager Haruki Ihara indicated that he thinks it is best that no team be obligated to send more than two players to the Athens olympics. He joins Hanshin skipper Akinobu Okada and Chunichi helmsman Hiromitsu Ochiai in being opposed to a proposal by national team boss Shigeo Nagashima to expand that personnel allowance. Seibu shot caller Tsutomu Itoh lamented that he will be losing four players, leftfielder Kazuhiro Wada and ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, as well as his two Taiwnese hurlers, Hsu Ming-chieh and Chang Chia-chiah, who will battle for the homeland's contingent. Ihara felt Itoh's pain and proposed that if a team has foreign players on it who leave to become a member of their respective country's olympic team, that it should count toward the two player per team limit. Kintetsu manager Masataka Nashida had a little different perspective on this, calling for every pro team to be represented since it hurts a club's image if they don't have somebody participating on the national team. So far, the Buffs have nobody slated to be on the olympic squad.

Miscellaneous Mariners rightfielder Ichiro Suzuki told Sankei Sports reporters Thursday while working out for three hours at an Orix practice facility in Kobe that while he pays little attentiuon to most MLB players, Kazuo Matsui's signing with the Mets has pumped him up, asserting that the PL Gakuen alumnus is the type of player who can inspire him to push himself to further heights. That is probably the last thing that American League moundsmen want to hear, but Ichiro will also be shooting for becoming the first player ever to register four consecutive 2000 campaigns from his entrance into MLB plus he only needs 60 more knocks to be inducted into the exclusive Meikyukai. Getting back to Matsui, Ichiro assessed, "he can really defend, run and hit. He has it all." Ichiro then allowed, "I want to put a lot of pressure on myself this season to excel. Three of Orix' rookies then got to face Ichiro during batting practice. "He throws hard," one commented. After he was done with that, Ichiro had a pow wow with ex-teammate So Taguchi....For his part, Matsui spend the afternoon working out at a Lions practice facility in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture and then had a long session in front of the videotape machine watching footage of National League pitchers, paying particular attention to Randy Johnson. He then went home to help wife Mio celebrate her 28th birthday. He will return to the states in the next few days....The Japanese pro umpires want to make their life a little easier by having the league ban coaches from protesting calls. "Only the manager should thoroughly make his team's case," the arbiters pleaded

In the News

Matsui Ready for New York

See story at: New Haven Register Article

Rhodes Claims Money Not Behind Defection to Yomiuri

See story at: Japan Today Article

Japanese Baseball Schedule Printed in English

Bob Bavasi (yes, of those Bavasis) was good enough to print out the Japanese pro schedule for this coming season at his Japan Ball site, which you can find by going Here. Thanks Bob! When I get our new sister site up April 1st, there will be a permanent link to Bob's homepage, so look for it if you have any game time and day-related questions or are interested in taking a Japanese baseball-themed tour.

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