The biggest story of this particular game was what was in effect an audition for an MLB job by starter Kei Igawa, the ace of the Hanshin Tigers, and it was a bit of a mixed bag, as he walked six but also limited a strong big league nine to two runs on five hits in six innings, but then Ryan Howard took over and belted a go ahead homer in the eighth off of reliever Kazuo Fukumori to ignite what became a five run rally that lent the stateside contingent a 7-2 victory over the NPB all stars at Osaka Dome. Including the exhibition game with Yomiuri, MLB has now swept all five matches of the series.
Chris Young started for MLB and tossed 3.2 shutout innings on a lone hit, but it was reliever Mike Myers who was credited with the win after 1.1 perfect frames.
Igawa was in trouble right at the outset, as he walked shortstop Jose Reyes to open the contest and he went to third on a single to right by DH Rafael Furcal. Rightfielder Jermaine Dye swung through strike three and Furcal was nailed attempting to steal second by catcher Takeshi Hidaka. Howard flew out to left and Igawa escaped unscathed.
However, in the second, Igawa walked centerfielder Andruw Jones and then struckout third baseman David Wright. But leftfielder Bill Hall also walked. Second baseman Chase Utley struckout and Igawa appeared poised to sidestpe a self made predicament. Unfortunately, catcher Brian Schneider singled to center and Jones scurried home for a 1-0 lead. Hall attempted to make it to third, but he was cut down by centerfielder Norichika Aoki.
Igawa was pressed again in the third, as Reyes singled to left. Furcal grounded to second baseman Atsushi Fujimoto, who flipped it to shortstop Eishin Soyogi, who flung it halfway to Kobe, and Furcal sprinted all the way around to third. Dye walked. Howard was next and Igawa struck him out. Jones grounded to third and Igawa was out of the inning.
NPB then ran themselves out of a possible inning in the last of the inning when leftfielder Teppei Tsuchiya walked and got picked off of first. Fujimoto singled to left and was subsequently pegged out attempting to steal second by Schneider.
Wright came up again in the fourth and got a cookie that he served to the folks in the leftfield bleachers to widen the MLB advantage to 2-0. Igawa walked another man in the inning, but otherwise got through the rest of it without further harm.
Igawa walked Jones to inaugurate the sixth, but he retired the three men after that to end his stint.
John Maine took the hill for the bottom half and walked rightfielder Naoyuki Omura, who stole second. A grounder moved Omura over to third. Aoki walked. Third baseman Shuichi Murata singled to center to plate Omura. First baseman Kazuya Fukuura singled to left to pack the sacks. DH Shinnosuke Abe lined a shot to rightcenter that was rundown by Chone Figgins with a sliding grab and Aoki tagged up and hustled in to tie it up at two all. Myers was summoned from the bullpen to face Tsuchiya and NPB skipper Katsuya Nomura countered by dispatching Takahiro Arai to the batter's box to pinch hit. Arai flew out to right to kill the rally.
Myers and Scott Shields kept the NPB bats under wraps through eight. While they were doing that, Howard dug in with one gone in the top of the eighth and socked a hanging forkball right over the heart of the plate beyond the rightcenterfield wall to put the big leaguers up 3-2. Fukumori walked Jones, Wright and Hall to load the bases. For whatever reason, Fukumori was left in and Utley singled to right to usher Jones in. Schneider walked to force Wright in. Finally, Fukumori got the hook and Tetsuya Utsumi was substituted for him. Reyes singled to left to cash in two and MLB was now comfortable at 7-2. Furcal and Figgins each flew out to right and that would be it for the MLB attack on the night.
Joe Nathan succeeded Shields for the ninth and Fukuura singled to left and Abe walked. But backup rightfielder Yuki Yoshimura grounded into a 6-4-3 double play and reserve second baseman Yosuke Takasu whiffed to turn the lights out.
Igawa, who was clocked at 91mph and who impressed the major leaguers with his changeup, was surrounded by the New York media and asked if he wanted to play with one of the teams in their state. Igawa replied that anywhere was fine with him. He has now given up eight homers in NPB-MLB all star faceoffs. On his performance Tuesday, Igawa grumbled that he wasn't able to get good arm swings like he needed to. He was also overthrowing in the early going and had trouble keeping his emotions in check.
Scouts fROm the Mets, Twins, the Red Sox, the Braves, the Yankees and San Francisco were in Osaka evaluating Igawa.
If NPB loses Wednesday, it will be the first time that Japan has been defeated in every game of a series since 1934, when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig lead an all star team that did it.
Game Time: 3:03
Dragons are reportedly going to offer Nippon Ham free agent first baseman
Michihiro Ogasawara a three year deal worth a total of two billion yen
($16-17 million). That would be comprised of a $4 million salary plus "supplemental
Aikodai Meiden High School infielder Naomichi Donoue has signed with the Dragons, who drafted him number one, for a 100 million yen (a little over $800,000) bonus pluns another $400,000 in incentives available to accompany a ten million yen ($80,000) salary.
Hanshin The Tigers are said to be offering leftfielder Tomoaki Kanemoto a three year, 1.8 billion yen (that shakes out to $5 million a season) deal. He will be 41 by the time this pact runs out, so this is a huge risk for the ballclub. It will also make him the highest paid active Japanese player.
The electrifying and mystifying decision by Hiroshima ace Hiroki Kuroda to remain with the Carp has thrown Hanshin's plans to post lefthander Kei Igawa into chaos. Owner Tsuneaki Miyazaki is expressing misgivings now about allowing his ace to get away to MLB in the wake of the Kuroda news. A formal announcement was supposed to come out either Tuesday or Wednesday about the Igawa matter, but that has now been tabled.
After getting Ryan Volgelsong, they will seek another foreign pitcher to help take up more of the slack. That also kind of puts Vogelsong in the position of going from replacing the departed Chris Oxspring, not that big a thing, to now supplanting Igawa. That is some major pressure.
Infielder Makoto Imaoka had his salary chopped down by more than $650,000 to just over $2 million.
Osaka Gas lefthander Tatsuya Kojima has signed with Hanshin, which is both a good and bad thing. Both of his parents are huge Hanshin fans, as are their Osaka area neighbors. "I will root for him as a fan. When he gets lit up I will heckle him like any other pitcher," his mom Kayoko said. HJis dad, added, "I wonder what the neighbors will say when he gets rocked." Kojima has a 92mph fastball as well as a slider and forkball.
Osamu Hamanaka's shoulder discomfort has now improved to where coaches are contemplating allowing him to take batting practice in the next day or two. Hamanaka himself says that he is ready anytime they want him to get in the cage.
Hiroshima Okay, here is the official line of bullshit about Kuroda: he will ostensibly pull in right around $2 million a season for four years with another $400,000 in incentives available. He mouthed that he stayed because he can't imagine pitching against Carp hitters and was delighted with the fan support that was displayed when it would appear he would leave. Moreover, while he is interested in MLB, he doesn't yet have the confidence, at age 31, that he could succeed there.
Now does anybody take this seriously? First of all, the skinny on Yakult third baseman Akinori Iwamura is that he will receive $3-5 million a year from the MLB team that signs him in salary, which is ridiculous, I think. So you look at that and then the superheated pitching market in the big leagues and you gotta say that Kuroda makes $5 million EASY, maybe six million. In addition, both Softbank and Yomiuri could easily offer $1-2 million a year more than Hiroshima did. So there is more here than meets the eye, maybe something that he doesn't want his country's tax authorities to hear about or he has been made promises about a long term position with the club beyond his playing days.
Kuroda, if he wants to go to MLB after 2008, will be allowed to tear up the final two years to do that. But at 33 and being righthanded, the money he could get now won't be there unless it is part of an incentivized deal. So I would say don't take all the blather by Kuroda at face value.
Honda Suzuka righthander Michito Miyazaki, who reportedly can crank it up to 95mph, formally announced his decision to join the Carp. He hopes to be used in a starting role and is 28.
Yakult The Swallows announced that they are negotiating with former Chunichi reliever Masataka Endo.
In addition to San Diego, Philadelphia and Minnesota, Boston is said to be interested in Iwamura. Mike Lowell and his expensive contract will get the boot if they win the bidding, according to one rumor.
MLB.com, when writing about Iwamura's posting, showed a picture purporting to be him in his WBC uniform, but it was actually another third baseman, Toshiaki Imae. MLB.com was notified of the mistake and changed it. I guess all those Japanese look the same to them because Iwamura and Imae, while having a somewhat similar stocky build, look nothing alike facially.
Manager Atsuya Furuta had his charges bunting their tails off Tuesday, backup infielder Yusuke Kajimoto laying down 500 just by himself. Furuta hopes that the team will execute the sacrifice better next season.
Yokohama The Bay Stars wanted to cut pitcher Ken Kadokura's salary by more than $80,000 from the approximately $600,000 he made in 2006, so he decided to exercise his free agent rights. The team rightly argues that Kadokura pretty much pulled a disappearing act the first two months of the season, when he was awful, in pushing for the decrease. He resides in Osaka and would like to catch on with Orix or Hanshin.
Shortstop Takuro Ishii had right knee surgery. He will be inthe hosptila for about another week.
Yomiuri The Toshihisa Nishi era in Tokyo is over, as the 35 year old veteran second baseman has been shipped off to Yokohama in exchange for veteran career backup Masakuni Odajima and cash. In other words, they basically gave Nishi away after he has done next to nothing at the plate the last couple of seasons. For Yokohama, they buy themselves a name addition with that Giants impramatur, but on the field it probably won't add much, especially since there is something of a log jam at the keystone sack with Seiichi Uchikawa, Hitoshi Taneda and Daisuke Fujita.
Yomiuri then got together with Orix and cut a deal whereby they would receive outfielder Yoshitomo Tani, who has been going downhill on both sides of the ball the last two seasons, in exchange for 22 year old reliever Takashi Kamoshida and minor league infielder Masahiro Nagata. Now the Giants have wanted to get younger, but they traded a pair of youngsters for a 33 year old guy who batted .267 last season with only six homers.
It will be interesting to see what the Buffaloes do with Nagata, who a Mets scout once called the best high school infield prospect in the world and the next Kazuo Matsui by others when he was drafted on the fourth round by the Tokyo outfit a couple of years ago. Kamoshida has been up and down but has decent stuff and could be an asset if they help him find himself. If Nagata fulfills his potential, this could be one of the worst trades of all time. If neither Nagata nor Kamoshida do anything then it could be even because I think Tani has hit the wall.
Tani could be an improvement over the deteriorating Takayuki Shimizu thanks to the difference with the glove and a slightly better bat. Since he hits from the right side it helps break up that lefthanded phalanx of Yoshinobu Takahashi, Shinnosuke Abe and Seung-yeop Lee. The Giants, though, would be better off moving Shimizu for young midline prospects because with Kenji Yano and Yoshiyuki Kamei also in the outfield as well his playing time isn't going to be much. Shimizu at this point is just injury insurance.
One interesting sidelight to this was that the deal was cut after Tani had accepted a better than $1 million pay cut to around $1.3 million.
Third baseman Hiroki Kokubo formally informed the Giants that he will go on the free agent market. He will reportedly meet with Softbank on the ninth and is expected to be back in Fukuoka next season. The Giants offered him two years at 300 million yen a season plus an option for a third.
Team owner Takuo Takihana said that they will start negotiations with Nippon Ham free agent first baseman Michihiro Ogasawara.
Yomiuri is also telling the press that they want to acquire a name foreign player, but no names have been mentioned as to who that might be. If Ogasawara coimes in he would play third, so the foreign addition would have to play the outfield. No word if they are interested in KBO star Lee Byung-Kyu.
Pitcher Chiang Chien-ming was taught the grip for the shuuto during an evening practice session Tuesday and a pitching coach said it looked like a promising addition for the Taiwan native. He will have to polish it during spring training, but it could help him get in on the hitters.
First baseman Seung-yeop Lee will be a commentator for the game between Nippon Ham and Samsung in the Asian Series on Korean outlet KBS. That station also broadcasts over the net, so it will be interesting to see if they will air the series on computers as well.
Righthander Hitoshi Miki threw 151 deliveries in the pen Monday. When he unleased his knuckle curve ball, a pitching coach remaked that since it has movement similar to his slider he should try lowering the velocity on it just to give batters something else to think about. So Miki might end up working on a slow knucle curve during the spring.
Miscellaneous Joso Gakuin High School will not allow its baseball team to lay any other schools for the time being after an incident came to light where two junior players had committed an act of violence on two sophomore players at the team's dormitory in September. One of the younger players sustained minor injuries. The Japan High School Baseball Federation will meet in the coming days to determine what to do about this as well as rules violations by other programs. School officials are reserving comment until the Federation hands down its disposition, so it is unknown whether the two juniors were disciplined.
Chicago White Sox teammates Tadahito Iguchi and Jermaine Dye visited the pediatric ward of a hospital in Suita, Osaka prefecture to lend the kids ther some encouragement. They then made an appearance at a Ronald McDonald House in that city.
The other players had a tour of Kyoto along with thier families, including a stop at the amazing Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion). They then did some shopping for souvenirs for the folks back home. Ryan Howard also sampled Japanese cookies.