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02/08/2004 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: Sasaki's in and Now Gaillard Wants Out; Matsui Impresses"

Team Reports

Hanshin Rookie shortstop Takashi Toritani hurt his middle finger on his throwing hand in defensive drills Saturday, causing the cancellation of an intrasquad game scheduled for Sunday. Hanshin is short of helathy infielders right now....Hideki Irabu came down with a light case of the flu Saturday and will not practice for the next two or three days....NPB Commissioner Yasuchika Negoro visited the Tigers camp and admitted that he was once a member of an oendan (organized cheering group) that supported the Osaka favorite sons....Mike Kinkade took 96 hacks in the batting cage Friday and cleared 17 balls for takeoff. 5000 fans were on hand to take in his and his teammates' workout....Kei Igawa threw in the bullpen Friday, hurling 64 pitches home. "Everything's going smoothly," he told reporters. The 20 game victor finally signed on the dotted line, taking a $1.9 million deal that also has up to $190,000 in incentives available....Lefthander Makoto Yoshino and reliever Takehito Kanazawa will both pitch in Sunday's intrasquad game. Yoshino threw 210 pitches in his workout Friday and rested his arm Saturday...Another southpaw, Katsuhiko Maekawa, threw 52 pitches and got some advice on using his lower body from a pitching coach while also working on backdooring his breaking ball.....Submariner Shunsuke Watanabe threw 70 pitches in batting practice Saturday and enjoyed himself....Ramon Morrel had his first spring training throwing session as well and came from three different arm angles while using all of his pitches. Manager Akinobu Okada said that he may keep Morrel out of games against CL opponents during the exhibition season to help Morrel get off to a good regular season start....Leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto wacked 21 out of the field of play in 87 swings Friday.

Chunichi The flu has struck the Dragons camp, too, as three pitchers have come down with it. In addition, Daisuke Yamai has a groin problem, reliever Shinichiro Koyama has a bruise on his throwing arm, catcher Yuichi Yamagisawa has some kind of gland infection, outfielder Kazuki Inoue has a bruise on his calf, outfielder Koji Nakamura has an ankle sprain and outfielder Hidenori Kuramoto has a rib sprain....Pitcher Satoshi Takahashi threw 267 pitches in his Saturday workout, 60 of those in batting practice. He fessed up to being dog tired when he was done, but experienced no pain....Rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome concentrated Sunday on a fine point of hitting, putting backspin on the ball. That helps the flight of the sphere carry further. He drilled seven in a row into the seats during batting practice and 60 overall in 750 swings during the two hour session. No, that isn't a typo. His arms must have felt like spaghetti....2002 number one draft choice Ryosuke Morioka was totally overpowered in batting practice by reliever Eiji Shotsu. Morioka, who was billed as the second coming of Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, is only 19 years old, so coaches think he will still develop into an impact player....Shigeki Noguchi threw 200 pitches Sunday after delivering 150 on Saturday for a total of 350 over the last two days. He says that his balance is improving and that his arm speed is coming up to par.

Yomiuri First baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara has finally been brought back up to train with the first team. He will begin working out with his teammates on Monday after everybody returns from Guam. Saturday, he took batting practice and clobbered 15 over the fence in 40 swings while focusing on keeping his stroke compact. He also displayed pretty good mobility in defensive drills....All of this coincided with Roberto Petagine's arrival back in Japan. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan's surgically reparied left knee still hasn't healed yet and manager Tsuneo Horiuchi said he will consult with team doctors before deciding on how to handle Peta-chan's practice menu. Petagine himself seems to still be in rehab mode, so just when he will be ready seems questionable at this point....Leftfielder Tuffy Rhodes said that he hopes that Petagine can feed him good info on Central League pitchers. Rhodes, who is already the all time foreign homer king, needs just 12 more dingers for 300. His impression of Petagine after the two met during a workout Sunday? "He's real quiet while I talk a lot. Maybe too much." Petagine, like he did last season, is staying in separate, more luxurious digs than his teammates, causing Chunichi Sports to call him "wagamama (selfish, egotistical).". Rhodes recently bought himself a Range Rover to drive around Tokyo in....New acquisition Katsunori Nomura will be left in the minor league camp at least for now, though he could be moved up as son as Tuesday....Closer Junichi Kawahara threw 66 pitches in the bullpen and has reportedly improved on keeping his front shoulder closed when he delivers the ball. Should Kawahara fail, Brian Sikorski will be given a shot at finishing off the Giants battles....A statement that rightfielder Yoshinobu Takahashi made about MLB to a reporters for a newspaper in Guam has been picked up by the Japanese press. See the stories below and you'll see why....Masumi Kuwata, after taking it easy the first three days of the Guam camp, threw each of the last three days. Saturday, he pegged 56 balls plateward...Infielder Akira Etoh finally cleared the fence in batting practice Saturday, powering seven beyond the fence after failing to do so in the 212 swings he took during the week....The man who will ace Etoh out of his job, third baseman Hiroki Kokubo, said that he was very satisfied with his sessions in Guam....Koji Uehara threw 124 pitches Thursday, especially aiming to get his fastball up and in on righthanded hitters.

Yakult Shortstop Shinya Miyamoto spent a considerable amount of time working with reserve infielder Yoshiyuki Noguchi. Noguchi has some nice tools, but has yet to put them together....Third baseman Akinori Iwamura threw some in the bullpen, making 40 pitches. You're not going to see him on the mound anytime soon, though. This was geared toward strengthening the Gold Glove winner's arm....Number one draft choice Ryo Kawashima threw 140 pitches to catcher Atsuya Furuta, with the future hall of fame backstop assessing that he displayed good movement on his breaking stuff....Furuta will be relaying some of his long experience on a DVD that the Japan Players Association is creating for high school players. Now that the injunction that forbade any interaction between pros and schoolboys is being lifted or at least modified, the association is shooting footage of players showing the right way to play the game and how they approach their position mentally and physically. No word on whether this will be commercially available since the initial plan is to distribute it free to 4300 schools. If anyone gets a copy, please contact me since I would like to view it myself. It is called The Player's Bible....Yuhei Takai threw batting practice Friday and looked very good indeed, showing a lot of life on his fastball. Coaches would like him to be more consistent with his control and plan on him being a mainstay of the rotation....Atsunori Inaba to first base? He's willing to do it and manager Tsutomu Wakamatsu is mulling it over. He's done work there in the past, so it's hardly strange to him. He has also changed his hitting approach, using more of a Sadaharu Oh-like leg lift. Too, he could end up leading off....Billy Martin will be tested in rightfield this spring....Pitcher Tomy Mounce celebrated his 29th birthday Sunday. Yakult coaches reportedly had no idea.

Hiroshima Hiroki Kuroda is working on a changeup, throwing it 35 times in his bullpen workout. Since his fastball maxes out at nearly 95mph, that could be a phenomenal pitch for him if he can consistently get it to do what it should....Closer Katsuhiro Nagakawa threw 63 pitches in the bullpen Sunday, but pitching coach Manabu Kitabeppu thought that the second year righthander was taking it too easy.

Yokohama About a thousand fans turned out mainly to watch Kazuhiro Sasaki have his first spring training workout with the Bay Stars in Ginowan, Okinawa. He did some longtossing and some running before retiring to the weight room. The ex-Mariner noted that the mood in the clubhouse seems a lot more subuded than it was before he left Japan. But that is what two last place finishes will do. However, pitcher Takashi Saito offered that Sasaki's coming back should brighten things up. In any event, all this has meant much more press interest. So to handle the media throng, the electronic outlets will be confined to doing interviews and such near the stadium entrance while the print folks will be meeting up in the cafeteria....One side effect of Sasaki's prodigal son act, however, is that Eddie Gaillard, who came to the Stars in a trade with Chunichi last season, is asking to be moved since he doesn't want to be demoted into a different relief role. "I didn't come here to be a setup man," he grumbled to Hochi Sports. When asked if he would be willing to go to Yakult, he said, "no. I want to go to a big team everybody knows." In other words, Yomiuri. He may want to talk to Rodney Pedraza about that experience and the way the Giants allowed Julio Santana to drift in the wind this offseason. Moreover, manager Tsuneo Horiuchi prefers a Japanese closer. When apprised of this situation, Sasaki said he's never seen Gaillard pitch, so he had no idea how to react. A Yokohama team official, though, countered Gaillard's assertions with, "We recently proposed putting a change in his contract that would take into account that he will be put in a setup role. He's a big boy. I think he understands our situation." Gaillard responded that no such propsal has ever been made to him. "If they want to include that in a multi-year deal, that's fine. But for a one year contract, I want to look at going to another team. Bringing Sasaki in is a plus to the team, but I have to look for another job somewhere"....Sidearming sinkerballer Atsushi Kizuka threw batting practice Sunday and used only his fastball during the 72 pitch assignment. His focal points were keeping his shoulder closed and smoothing out his weight transfer.

Daiei Former Yomiuri great Shigeo Nagashima visited his old teammate Sadaharu Oh's club Saturday and watched their workout. He commented that second year guy Tsuyoshi Wada's heater is looking a little quicker this spring than last. "He looks like he is ready to go already," Nagashima told reporters. Then Sunday, Wada threw another 121 pitches with Nagashima looking on again...Southpaw Toshiya Sugiuchi had his first bullpen session, throwing 47 pitches, the first time he's really done any throwing at all since the Japan Series. Oh got into the batter's box to get an up close look at Sugiuchi's stuff and was pleased....Just as an addenda to the story below about the Hawks selling naming rights to their home ballpark, among those companies said to be interested in sticking their moniker on the facade is IBM Japan. That significant only because their Yaesu branch did away with their industrial league squad after decades of existence, sending several of their players to the pros....Takahiro Mahara threw 100 pitches Saturday and Oh stepped in to watch his stuff go by, too. Catcher Kenji Johjima was very impressed and averred that his stuff is kinda sneaky. A Seibu player personnel official was likewise high on Mahara after watching him, calling him "a wonderful pitcher" and saying that he thinks that the top draft pick has some heart.

Seibu I think I said that new Seibu signing Jose Fernandez wasn't known as a tape measure bomber. Well, he put the lie to that Saturday by clearing the entire ballpark and carroming a shot off the tile roof of a house across the street, a clout estimated at more than 520 feet. But then again, there was a nice breeze blowing out, but even without it, it would have approached 500 feet anyway. "I'm not interested in trying to hit the ball far because it will create bad habits," Fernandez remarked. A team official was dispatched to visit the homeowner and apologize....Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 59 pitches during his bullpen stint, saying thst he would really like to start throwing in earnest, but that it is still kind of cold in Okinawa and it was windy. He did, though, throw 111 Friday and was fooling around with his front foot position to try to enhance his control and command....Manager Tsutomu Itoh visited with more than 650 schoolchildren before his team's practice and gave them all Lions baseball caps and expressed hopes that they would come out to the ballpark to cheer the Tokorzawa contingent on.

Kintetsu The authority that runs Osaka Dome is contemplating selling the naming rights to the ballpark....The Buffs announced Sunday the acquisition of righthanded pitcher Hector Carrasco. The 6'2" 220 pound Dominican is a veteran of 498 MLB outings and is expected to join the team in the next couple of weeks.

Lotte Benny Agbayani came down with a stomach inflammation. Moreover, one of manager Bobby Valentine's coaches caught the flu and the cold weather in Kagoshima has the erstwhile Rangers helmsman talking about holding next year's camp overseas....First baseman Lee Seung-yeop is working on recognition of the forkball since, according to him, very few pitchers in the KBO throw it. He put on a show in batting practice, jetting two well out of the ballpark and collecting 13 homers overall in 58 swings....Tomohiro Kuroki threw 119 pitches in his workout Sunday and, as if he wasn't already difficult enough to hit, he may be adding a sinking Freddie Garcia-type changeup to his arsenal. Kuroki, who gave an MLB all star team a real bad time in 2000, said that he was just fooling around with it, but now feels that he might actually be able to use it as part of his repetoire. He learned the grip from former Lotte hillsman Mike Warren in 1999, but began toying with it again. Moreover, it makes for less stress on his elbow than his forkball does. He will pitch in an intrasquad game. Boy, if this guy can come back and you put him in the rotation with workhorse Nate Minchey and Naoyuki Shimizu in a home ballpark where the wind blows in, you're going to see a lot of PL hitters' batting averages cry "uncle." Now if only Shingo Ono can rediscover his form of a few years ago and Shunsuke Watanabe can pitch like he did the second half of last season and Valentine might really have something. That would also allow Hiroyuki Kobyashi to go back into the otherwise thin bullpen where he belongs to get to death on two legs, Masahide Kobayashi.

Nippon Ham The Fighters officially signed former Orix infielder Fernando Seguignol. Hmmm, the Ivan Cruz return didn't exactly work out even though Cruz lead all minor leaguers in homers in 2002. So one has to wonder if Seguignol will be successful. I frankly wouldn't be surprised if he puts up Rick Lancelotti-type numbers (in other words, he may hit a lot of homers, but he will also struggle to stay above the Mendoza Line and strikeout a bazillion times)....Outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo asked the following question: "where is Athens?" There's been talk of Shinjo being put on the Japanese olympic squad, which the former Met seemed receptive to. Now he has apparently had a change of heart. "I can't handle the pressure of playing while wearing the flag on my uniform," the vacant pretty boy sputtered. "There are a lot of players who are better than me. I don't want to go overseas anymore"....Third baseman Michihiro Ogasawara took his first spring batting practice and spent most of his 45 swing session inside outing the ball to left....3000 fans turned out to watch Sunday's practice at the team's Nago, Okinawa spring camp site, a lot of them to watch the vastly overrated Shinjo. A Lotte scout, though, posited that while Shinjo may be more popular than its new arrival, Seung-yeop Lee, Lee will outhit Shinjo. Shinjo knocked only one ball beyond the fence in 41 swings.

Orix Condolences to pitcher Hisashi Tokano, whose father, Takeo, passed away Saturday at the age of 58. The funeral will be on the 11th....Centerfielder Yoshitomo Tani looked good in the batting cage despite not having worked out much in the offseason due to preparing for his marriage to judo idol Ryoko Tamura, who is now going under the name Ryoko Tani....Outfielder Arihito Muramatsu is out with the flu....Pitcher Kazuya Motoyanagi followed up his 230 pitch bullpen session Friday with a 100 pitch outing Saturday. They had him make a change to his foot position and it has helped him keep his weight back and closed up his front side....Lefthander Trey Moore had his first bullpen session Sunday, throwing 93 pitches. Moore told a Sankei Sports writer that "I was able to throw really well today and I felt good. I just hope that the weather improves"....Masato Yoshii was scheduled to throw Sunday, too, but he felt some discomfort in his calf muscle and was allowed to put it off. He says he's fine, but that given the cold weather, trainers decided to err on the side of caution.

Miscellaneous Australia qualified for the Athens olympics by routing South Africa 13-1....Pitcher Masao Kida has arrived in Vero Beach as a spring training invitee and said that he doesn't care what his role is, he just wants to make the big league roster....Mets shortstop Kazuo Matsui took his first batting practice with the club Sunday, mortaring nine homers in 190 swings, focusing on lining the ball back through the middle. The batting practice pitcher, a former Cardinals hurler, remarked that Matsui has excellent plate coverage and that he has good hitting fundamentals. One of the Mets' minor league managers concurred, adding that "[Matsui] has a sensational glove."

In the News

True World Series Could Happen

See story at: ESPN Article

Kazuo Matsui Arrives in Florida

See story at: Palm Beach Post Article

See related story at: Palm Beach Post Article

Giants Leave, Look Ahead

See story at: Pacific Daily News Article

Japan Closing the Gap

See story at: Pacific Daily News Article

Kintetsu Scraps Naming Rights Plan

See story at: Mainichi Shimbun Article

Hawks Looking at Naming Rights for Ballpark

See story at: Yomiuri Shimbun Article

LG's Three Musketeers Reunite

See story at: Dong-A Ilbo Article

Will Italy be Path to MLB for Marchesano?

See story at: Fort Wayne Star-Sentinel Article

Off Topic: Sumo Experiencing Flagging Interest

See story at: Taipei Times Article

Replies: 1 Comment

I'm a Yakult Fan. I noticed in looking at their site, that the schedule for August is blank. What effect are the Olympics going to have on the Japan League with respect to the schedule?

Posted by Dave Johnson @ 02/09/2004 07:15 AM EST

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