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02/13/2004 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: Seung-yeop Lee Wrong Foots It; Matsui the Next Templeton?"

Team Reports

Hanshin Infielder George Arias had a special hitting session Thursday and went yard twice in 66 swings, focusing on going the opposite way. In fact, one of those dingers was a low line drive near the rightfield foul pole. He also expressed admiration for Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera because they can hit the ball out of any part of the park. One of the Tigers coaches said that Arias had asked him to help him hit outside pitches better, thus Thursday's drill where he had Arias working on bringing his hands inside the ball....Outfielder Taichiro Kamisaka will be confined to quarters during away games and after practices as punishment for a speeding violation and then not showing up after being summoned several times by local police. He was also fined one million yen (about $9500)....Rookie shortstop Takashi Toritani had his A stroke in batting practice Thursday and will start against Nippon Ham on Saturday....Despite having a touch of the flu Wednesday, Hideki Irabu was back Thursday throwing in the bullpen. He is still trying to lose about 20 pounds.

Chunichi 21st year veteran southpaw Masahiro Yamamoto had a leisurely 30 pitch bullpen session Thursday. "He knows what to do to get himself ready," said a Dragons pitching coach in letting Yamamoto work at his own pace. "I feel good and I'm in no hurry," the moundmsan declared....Shortstop Hirokazu Ibata hit a ball off of his neck during batting practice, but shook it off and continued practicing until ordered to stop by manager Hiromitsu Ochiai....Kenjiro Kawasaki threw some bp Friday, all fastballs, during his 50 pitch outing. He was throwing about 70% full strength....Catcher Motonobu Tanishige threw batting practice Thursday, sending 139 pitches up to the plate, reportedly consistently eclipsing the 87mph mark. Tanishige said that he is at just about in season shape arm wise. Last season, he only threw out 31.3% of the runners attempting to steal against him, though that may be more of a reflection on the Dragons' pitching staff than anything else....Centerfielder Alex Ochoa is experiencing calf pain and therefore took it easy in workouts Thursday. Boy, just getting the chance to watch rightfielder Kosuke Fukudome and Ochoa throw is worth the price of admission by itself. But Fukudome is also injured, so when you'll see them back together is uncertain....Chunichi will play a practice game against the KBO's SK Wyverns on February 24th.

Yomiuri Manager Tsuneo Horiuchi had a go at the press Thursday, telling them not to call first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara by the nickname his teammates gave him, "bancho." "Bancho," or, literally, "head number," is what the president of a motorcycle gang is called. "Do you know what the real meaning of the word is?" Horiuchi started. "I hope it's done as a joke, but that it not a good word to use for someone. Give the guy a break." When a couple of the reporters started snickering at this outburt, Horiuchi fumed, "what the hell are you laughing at?" When he was an ace pitcher with the Giants, Horiuchi had a reputation among baseball beat writers akin to that of how U.S. writers look at Barry Bonds in terms of attitude towards them....Kiyohara himself, with wife Aki and son Shogo looking on from the stands, slugged two homers in 31 swings against reliever Junichi Kawahara in batting practice. He then repaired to a cage and hit off of a tee....Kawahara threw a total of 64 pitches during bp. He is scheduled to throw in an intrasquad game on the 19th....Second year pitcher Hiroshi Kisanuki is still being hampered by calf pain, but was able to do some windsprints anyway. He thinks he will be able to begin throwing off a mound soon....Third baseman Hiroki Kokubo was sawed off twice by lefthander Hisanori Takahashi during his batting practice round....Shigeo Nagashima will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before a Giants exhibition game with the Yankees on March 28th....Outfielder Takayuki Saito's calf inflammation isn't improving and so he will be sent down to the minors to rehab it. Should Saito not be able to begin the regular season, either Tuffy Rhodes or Takayuki Shimizu will play centerfield.

Yakult Lefthander Yuhei Takai threw batting practice and had rather dubious control, racking up 39 balls and just 22 strikes in his 61 pitch stint. A pitching coach assessed that Takai may be sent down to work his control problems out. Last season, he set a rookie record for wild pitches...Lefthander Hirotoshi Ishii threw about 65 pitches Thursday and was unhappy with his mechanics....Reliever Futoshi Yamabe had some discomfort in his oblique muscle and so his sceduled bp assignment went by the wayside....Manager Tsutomu Wakamatsu said that when big ex-Hanshin catcher Koichi Tabuchi stopped by to visit, he heard a fan in the stands blurt, "look! It's [former sumo yokozuna] Akebono!"

Yokohama Kazuhiro Sasaki had his first bullpen session for the team Friday, throwing 60 pitches, including his forkball and curve ball. He was obviously rusty and had to adjust to the softer dirt used on Japanese mounds as well as an incrementally different ball, but the latter part of the workout saw him getting his deliveries down and he was getting good movement....The mother of Daiei second year pitcher pitcher Nagisa Arakaki, Yaeko Arakaki, told a Sankei Sports reporter that Sasaki was his role model when he was a sixth grader. Arakaki had a growth spurt that played havoc with his legs at that time and doctors who operated on him told him that he might never play baseball again. But Arakaki kept plugging away and is now one of the harder throwers in all of Japanese baseball....Lefty Scott Mullen got himself some major ink in Sankei Sports Thursday for the fact that he was a rare southpaw catcher in high school before, like righthander Troy Percival, he was converted into a pitcher. He was a catcher from the time he was nine, he revealed before an MLB scout recommended that he be put on the hill his senior year in high school. "Being a catcher was a plus," Mullen asserted. "90% of pitching is mental anyway and it helps you get to know how to regulate the flow of a game and understand how to approach hitters." Taking Mullen's place behind the plate was his younger brother. Mullen's dad was in the navy and he accompanied his father when the elder Mullen was stationed at Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture, where he lived for two years. That helped him foster a taste for yakisoba (a noodle dish). When he returned to the states, Scott said that he at at Japanese restaurants at least once a week. The paper asked a Stars pitching coach about Mullen. The coach commented that when you first see him, Mullen doesn't really seem to be anything special. He doesn't really throw that hard. But he also stated that Mullen works his tail off, though the MLB approach of emphasizing fastballs, especially on 3-2 counts, will have to be changed. Mullen faced Ichiro Suzuki four times when he was with Kansas City and held him to one hit. Overall, Mullen has been in 75 MLB games and went 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA....According to Hochi Sports, reliever Eddie Gaillard has withdrawn his demand to either be given a multi-year deal or be moved. However, the front office is still mulling over the incentive clauses in his contract to take into account that he will probably be in a setup role and not the closer....Rookie pitcher Daisuke Mori has been demoted to the minor leagues due to still recovering from an elbow injury.

Daiei Number one draft choice Takahiro Mahara threw batting practice for the first time as a pro and saw Julio Zuleta torch him for back to back monster bombs and then couldn't find the strike zone against second baseman Tadahito Iguchi. "Last year, [Tsuyoshi] Wada was a little tight, too," manager Sadaharu Oh offered, apparently expecting some early jitters by the highly touted rookie....Ten of the Hawks players got together and divided up into two parties and visited four Miyazaki area hospital
children's wards....Manager Sadaharu Oh recommended that rookie catcher Ryuji Ono get Lasik surgery, and so the 22 year old complied. He had been using contacts up until this point. Ono is likely to get a long look when regular receiver Kenji Johjima is gone for three weeks to play in the olympics.

Seibu Ace Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 214 pitches during his workout today, some of that iun batting practice. All star leftfielder Kazuhiro Wada stepped in against the righthander and couldn';t do a thing with him despite the fact that Matsuzaka wasn't throwing at full velocity. The Yokohama High grad stated that he was working on delaying his release to make his fastball a little sneakier....The Lions pitching staff didn't do well during defensive drills, so manager Tsutomu Itoh gathered them together and let them have it, urging them to take these practices more seriously....A middle aged female fan cracked Wada up when he was in the outfield, as she mistook him for Daiei pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada. Kazuhiro Wada turned toward her and jokingly responded, "okay, I'll try to win 20 games!"

Kintetsu Third baseman Norihiro Nakamura will initially fly into L.A. Saturday and will workout at Dodger Stadium for five days before heading to Florida to join the Dodgers' spring camp....New addition Hector Carrasco will arrive in Japan Saturday....Ther Buffaloes' front office is hoping that Yokohama will offload Eddie Gaillard, according to Hochi Sports.

Lotte Manager Bobby Valentine split the team up into three parts and conducted defensive drills Thursday and wasn't all that impressed. "It was alright," the former Rangers and Mets headman blandly muttered in Japanese. Valentine gave first baseman Seung-yeop Lee some personal instruction on his footwork after Lee threw away a peg to second on a bunt play. This perplexed Lee since "we were allowed to do it how we wanted back in Korea." However, with the stick, Lee took Dan Serafini into the great wide open during his 14 swing batting practice session in which he thumped it with some authority....A former executive with the Baseball Magazine Company, which publishes Shukan Baseball, has moved into the team's player personnel department. "He knows baseball really well and I want to get his advice," said owner Shigemitsu....Friday, pitcher Satoru Komiyama threw in the neighborhood of 150 pitches, including 63 in batting practice.

Nippon Ham Centerfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo says that he won't bother looking at video of opposing pitchers because it will make him think too much at the plate. "Having meetings is enough," the daft former Met opined....Third baseman Michihiro Ogasawara spent the day hanging out with his family members, the first full day off he's taken since early January....The Fighters will play practice games against Hanshin Saturday and Sunday and the team bus may be given a police escort so that it doesn't get swarmed by fans of Shinjo....Former Yakult great Takahiro Ikeyama believes that Shinjo's addition will prove to be a positive for Nippon Ham and could even help get them a playoff shot. He also thinks that new addition Ryan Rupe will be asked to close, though I think that Rupe is more suited to start. Ultimately, though, I don't believe that the club has enough pitching or offensive consistency and will be lucky to stay out of fifth and could even end up in last.

Orix Outfielder Ryota Aikawa broke his left ankle during baserunning drills and will be gone for at least six weeks. Aikawa was being heavily counted on to fill the rightfield slot this coming season, so now manager Haruki Ihara will have to juggle his outfield and perhaps move Roosevelt Brown from DH back into left and decide whether he wants Yoshitomo Tani or Arihito Muramatsu in right.

Miscellaneous Mets shortstop Kazuo Matsui worked some more with second baseman Jose Reyes on turning double plays Thursday with the guidance of special infield instructor Chico Fernandez. The main things that Fernandez was focusing on for Matsui were flipping the ball without taking a step and opening his body sooner to give Reyes a better look at the ball....Mets AAA manager John Stearns was asked by a Hochi Sports scribe as to which switch hitting shortstop Matsui most resembles. After mulling over the likes of former Cub Don Kessinger and ex-Dodger Maury Wills, Stearns came up with Gary Templeton for the combination of power speed and defense, but then remarked that if you put personalities into it, Matsui wins that comparison, too....Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui arrived at JFK Airport Thursday and said that he hopes to have a better season in 2004 than he did in his debut campaign. He will then head for Florida and the club's spring training camp on the 17th.

In the News

It's Now or Never for New Giants Catcher

See story at: Japan Times Article

On Naming Rights and Japanese Baseball

Marty Kuehnert has some illuminating things to say about this isseu at: Japan Times Article

Matsui Becoming NYC Ambassador

See story at: Newsday Article

Baseball Trumps Politics in Taiwan

See story at: Taipei Times Article

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