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01/16/2004 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: McDonald's Uses Buffaloes to Slam American Beef; Ichiro Meets Toritani"

Team Reports

Hanshin Rookie shortstop Takashi Toritani's former teammate at Waseda University, Orix first year outfielder Shintaro Yoshida, called Toritani up and excitedly recounted being able to take batting practice against Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki Thursday. Later that day, Yoshida reportedly asked Ichiro if he would like to watch Toritani workout and Ichiro nonchalantly agreed. So today, after finishing his own workout, Ichiro headed off with Yoshida to see this year's most touted newbie, probably out of curiosity more than anything else. Ichiro then left without really saying much to the press other than, "how [Toritani] develops is really up to [Hanshin manager] Mr. Okada, but I didn't mind watching him"....Earlier that day, Toritani taped a segment for Sun Television in front of an audience of more than a thousand. Also in attendance was Japan's Lou Brock, hall of fame centerfielder Yutaka Fukumoto, who gave Toritani an autograph that basically reminded him to stay humble and take his time"....The head of an independent Hanshin cheer group was sentenced to 14 months in jail for assaulting a Koshien Stadium administrator. A second man affiliated with the same group will go on trial in the coming week for what he did during that incident.

Chunichi Third baseman Kazuyoshi Tatsunami reupped for this coming season at the same salary, about $2.4 million, he made last year. That was pretty much just a formality, though, as he is entering the third year of a four year pact. A team official also obliquely suggested that when the longtime veteran retires that he will end up on the team's coaching staff.

Yomiuri New leftfielder Tuffy Rhodes, unlike first baseman Roberto Petagine, will stay in the same hotel as the rest of the Giants staff and players during spring training. Rhodes did the same thing while with Kintetsu, eating with the team and speaking to his teammates in Osaka dialect whereas Petagine seemed to live his own separate existence....Friday was manager Tsuneo Horiuchi's 56th birthday. After he finished a tv interview in the morning, the former pitching ace was treated to a birthday cake. His father Kazuo died on this date in 1973 at the age of 69, so this day gives Horiuchi mixed feelings. He told reporters, "the time between when you are 55 and when you are 65 is a time when you lay it on the line for the last time during your life. I will never give up on games I think we can win"....Number two choice Kentaro Nishimura's hamstring is improving and he has started jogging. He hopes to be healed in time for spring camp.

Yakult Manager Tsutomu Wakamatsu is still feeling the effects of hernia surgery, with even getting up from a chair still being a little difficult. He exercises by walking for 40 minutes, but that is a battle, too. Wakamatsu also indicated that he is against national team manager Shigeo Nagashima's plea to allow more than the stipulated two players from each team to go to the olympics, something that Hanshin special adviser Senichi Hoshino has backed Nagashima on. "They can say that because they are no longer managing," the former CL batting champ grumbled....Free agent closer Shingo Takatsu's agent, Joe Urbon, talked with representatives from three MLB teams after his client's workout yesterday, though he wouldn't tell which clubs are displaying the interest.

Hiroshima Conditioning himself to be a setup man rather than the starter he was in years past, Shinji Sasaoka is going to throw less in workouts this spring than he did previously. Before this spring, he would deliver 200-300 pitches a session, but now will limit that to around a hundred. "I have to prepare myself to throw on consecutive days," the veteran hurler offered. Pitching coach Manabu Kitabeppu indicated that Sasaoka may make some part starts, depending on the situation and the matchups.....Rookie infielder Yoshinori Ogata cracked everyone up Friday morning when he came in and introduced himself as "traded to Hanshin Tomoaki Kanemoto." Ogata is said to facially resemble the Tigers leftfielder....The Carp front office announced that pitcher Chris Brock is now officially under contract for another season for a $625,000 salary.

Yokohama Rookie pitcher Teruaki Yoshikawa came in at an astonishing 30% body fat ratio and it may cost him a chance to accompany the big club to spring training while he works off the excess lard, probably through lots of running. As a comparison, Sports Nippon says that your average sumo wrestler only brings 23% body fat to their bouts....Infielder Takahiro Saeki has lost 15 pounds and hopes to take Tyrone Woods' first base job. He worked out for five hours Friday and then told reporters that he will take the more powerful Woods' position by racking up a high average with runners in scoring position....Number one draft choice Daisuke Mori had his elbow examined at a Yokohama area hospital and was cleared by doctors to take part in normal workouts.

Daiei Apparently, Hawks outfielder/first baseman Noriyoshi Omichi still has it in for Hanshin despite the birds of prey prevailing in the Japan Series, as he saw a picture of the Tigers speedster and three teammates jogging in Omichi's hometown. "That road is where my dog [goes to the bathroom]," Omichi informed the press, indicating that Akahoshi might end up with a souvenir on the bottom of his shoes....Number eight selection Kazuhiro Takeoka was checked out by the team's conditioning coach and said that the former Braves minor leaguer had the best fitness of anyone among the current pro rookie crop. Takeoka learned to cook while making next to nothing in AAA, but the fare offered by the team very much agrees with him.

Kintetsu Manager Masataka Nashida and pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma took part in a promotional event for McDonald's in Osaka Friday to allay Mad Cow fears being exhibited by the Japanese public. McDonald's Japan wants to press the fact that it uses Aussie beef and not the U.S. variety (nice bit of patriotism by McDonald's at a time when U.S. jobs are being exported; thanks you traitors) that is under scrutiny right now. Iwakuma also took the opportunity to beg for a spot on the Japanese olympic baseball squad, highlighting the fact that he will be the Opening Day starter.

Lotte Ace Tomohiro Kuroki, who has been out the last two years with a shoulder injury, says he will throw 3000 pitches between now and the end of spring training in order to get ready for the regular season. Note that even though he has been injured such a long period, he hasn't had any surgery or real treatment, but he feels such a need to get back on the mound that he is apparently going to try to will himself back into action. This past week, the righthander has thrown 304 pitches. He is hoping to pitch in an exhibition game on February 28th against Yomiuri....A Korean tour company, in conjunction with Japanese travel firms, is planning trips to Lotte games to see slugger Seung-yeop Lee, according to Sankei Sports. Billed as a "Lions King Charter Tour," they will begin on April 2nd.

Nippon Ham Outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo has reportedly given up on finding a home or apartment in Sapporo since he can't find adequate enclosed parking spaces for his three luxkry cars, which includes a Ferrari and a BMW. In Japan, due to the scarcity of open land, you often have to buy a parking space and it isn't uncommon for auto owners to actually have to take the train to that space. So even though he is hardly in the filthy rich class of ballplayers, the ex-Met is considering using a $1500 a night hotel room as his base of operations during the season....Well, I don't know what is a bigger waste of time, me writing about the article or Hochi Sports spending resources to track this story down, but anyway, a member of the monstrously popular all girl teen group Morning Musume, Eri Kamei, lives in the same neighborhood as Fighters rookie pitcher Hideki Sunaga and they know each other from elementary school. Hochi insists that Sunaga wants her to come to see him pitch, but Sunaga bashfully laughed that off. No quote from Kamei, though.

Orix Former Hankyu great Tokuji Nagaike has been hired as a special instructor by the Blue Wave. He will focus on teaching the hitters how to handle pitches up and in. Nagaike has been making his living recently as a baseball commentator....Shortstop
Mitsutaka Goto had Lasik eye surgery during the offseason and he says that it has helped him pick up the rotation of the ball better. Goto had reportedly been dogged by nearsightedness....The team issued its new catch phrase, and unwieldy it is: "Believe 'n Go~Choten e~Zenryoku (to the top with all our might)".

Miscellaneous According to Hochi Sports, the L.A. Dodgers are sniffing around hardthrowing Shidax pitcher Takahiko Nomaguchi, who is expected to be one of the top two or three pitching picks in the November draft. Hanshin, Yomiuri, Seibu and Yokohama are already turning on the charm to lure the 20 year old righthanded Ozaki, Hyogo Prefecture native and his 94mph fastball to their sides, but Nomaguchi is also said to be a Dodgers fan and Friday, L.A.'s Japan area scout, Keiichi Kojima, was seen watching Nomaguchi's three hour workout. Kojima wouldn't issue any comment, but Kojima has apparently already met with Shidax skipper Katsuya Nomura about Nomaguchi, who won two games at the last Baseball World Cup. However, it should be noted that Nomaguchi is expected to end up with a Japanese team next winter and then to go to MLB when he becomes a free agent....Kazuo Matsui concluded a three hour running and tee batting session at a Seibu practice facility Friday by telling reporters that he is off for the states on the 18th. He was also experimenting with a couple of different gloves and bats. Matsui has been using MLB baseballs, which are a smidgen larger than the Japanese brand and they aren't a problem for him, he revealed. He wll initially land in New York and then head for Florida to get ready for spring training. Furthermore, Chunichi Sports quotes Matsui as being interestes in training together with Nakamura before the exhibition season kicks off if Nakamura does indeed voyage to Vero Beach to workout with the Dodgers....Hochi Sports says that Expos righty Tomokazu Ohka has asked for arbitration, hoping to boost his salary from last season's 340,000 to $2 million.

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