the wind blowing in, spring training invitee Norihiro Nakamura slugged
only six homers in 102 swings Saturday during batting practice, but a team
representative said he liked what he saw. However, that may have just been
a social nicety.
Ace Kenshin Kawakami, who hasn't thrown in a week due to some discomfort in his back, threw 40 pitches in the pen Saturday. 'I threw at about 50% of full strength. The back still feels stiff but it didn't feel too bad when I threw," he said.
First baseman Tyrone Woods, who had an MVP-type year last season, arrived a week late in Japan due to his mother's back surgery. Can't blame him there. He is reportedly in excellent shape thanks to hitting the weight room with a vengeance in Tampa. He would like to play in exhibition games with Yakult and Yokohama next weekend.
Rookie Naomichi Donoue pasted a hanging changeup from Samsung Lions starter Jamie Brown Saturday up the leftcenter alley for a double and also handled six defensive chances easily as his impressive spring remains ongoing.
Reliever Atsushi Nakazato did great Saturday, going two innings of scoreless ball on a hit and fanning three.
Hanshin Rotation candidate Tatsuya Kojima made his pro debut with two perfect innings Saturday in a practice game with Nippon Ham before 20,000 fans, which the Tigers took 8-7. He was clocked at 90 mph and at least one opposing advance scout compared him to Toshiya Sugiuchi, the Softbank southpaw. "I don't think I was THAT great out there today, but I was able to throw strikes and somehow get some outs," said Kojima.
Second baseman Kentaro Sekimoto had three hits, including a homer off of a hanging forkball from Takehiko Oshimoto, and two RBIs. His rival at that position, Atsushi Fujimoto, hasn't hit so far and also made an error Saturday.
Third baseman Makoto Imaoka, endeavoring to rebound off of what was the worst year of his career last season, was 1-2 and seemed to have no trouble throwing in the field.
Lin Wei-tzu was 3-3 and has now gone 6-10 in the three practice games the Tigers have been involved in. He is showing an increasing ability to adjust off of breaking balls, something that he hadn't been able to do in seasons past.
Shortstop Takashi Toritani finished a homer short of the cycle and also stole third.
DH Osamu Hamanaka had a knock and a steal.
The other man battling for the rightfield job, Shinjiro Hiyama, struckout and flew out in his two times up.
Hirotaka Egusa spun three scoreless innings on a hit, that being on a hot shot back through the box that went off of his glove.
Kazuya Tsutsui was awful, as he got his ass kicked for six hits and four runs in two innings while also walking three.
Hiroshima Third baseman Takahiro Arai talked with manager Marty Brown about how to get more lift out of his stroke since he hasn't been pumping balls over the fences in bp like he expects himself to do. It could be that Arai just isn't getting his hands enough above the ball when he swings.Arai is plenty strong, so that isn't the problem.
Yakult Shortstop Shinya Miyamoto had an MRI and was diagnosed with an inflammation of the lining of his left calf. It is a relatively minor problem and he will continue to workout with a lighter regimen than the rest of the team.
In addition, at Miyamoto's request, the Swallows have padded the fences at its minoir league park in Toda, Saitama Prefecture.
Seth Greisinger was lamenting that his control was off, giving himself a three out of a possible ten for his performance during batting practice. But the press, the hitters he faced and catcher/manager Atsuya Furuta thought something entirely different. Backup outfielder Munehiro Shida said that it was hard to time Greisinger and reporters talked about how his two seamer bored in on righthanded batters. Furuta averred that, "he looks like he could do something for us." Greisinger may appear in an exhibition game on the 24th.
Ryuji Miyade, attempting to make the switch from the outfield to third base, underwent a special defensive drill after committing two errors against Hanshin the other day. After it was over, he asked to do it again.
Yokohama Rookie pitcher Kentaro Takasaki did very well during a simulated game Saturday, facing 18 hitters and scattering three hits while striking out a similar number. He was clocked at 88mph. Takasaki said that he wasn't concerned with his velocity, instead concentrating on getting his control locked in. Slugging third baseman Shuichi Murata called Takasaki "an Uehara type" due to the sharp downward break on his slider and the life on his heater. Manager Akihiko Oya added that Takasaki's release point is tough for hitters to pick up. Outfielder Yuki Yoshimura liked the fact that Takasaki works quickly, making it easier for those playing defense behind him.
Veterans Kimiyasu Kudoh and Daisuke Miura each threw about 60 pitches during batting practice, but Kudoh gave himself low marks because he couldn't keep his pitches down consistently.
Relievers Greg Chaisson and Takeo Kawamura were let out of practice early, as Chiasson wasn't feeling well and Kaamura suffered a groin injury.
Yomiuri Infielder Ryota Wakiya has played mostly at second base as well as a little bit at third in his short pro career, but Saturday, manager Tatsunori Hara had him working out at shortstop with the incumbent at that position, Tomohiro Nioka, out with a leg injury. With Luis Gonzalez having been so impressive at second, adapting to short would give Hara more options, perhaps putting Michihiro Ogasawara in the outfield on occasion and spinning Nioka over to third or, if Seung-yeop Lee were to get injured or needed a day off, he could move Ogasawara to first and then enact the other moves elucidated above. Hara also had rookie Hidetoshi Tsuburaya taking ground balls at second after he played shortstop almost exclusively in college.
Lee and Gonzalez as well as outfielders Yoshinobu Takahashi and Yoshitomo Tani were practicing situational bunting Saturday, including squeezes. Haruki Ihara, who was overseeing things, went off on Tani for not being able to get bunts down and eventualy kicked him out of the cage in frustration.
Submariner Yushi Aida will go four innings in Sunday's intrasquad game.His father, a former Yakult moundsman, will be there to see it.
Ace Koji Uehara, who is dealing with a bad hamstring right now, is still taking it easy so as not to worsen it. He did some jogging and weightlifting, but there is still no timetable as to when he might be able to throw again.
Reliever Yuya Kubo threw about 60 pitches in batting practice and looked good.
Lefthander Hisanori Takahashi said that his back still isn't 100% but he threw 51 pitches in the pen anyway, insisting that his shoulder is rounding into shape. He is scheduled to pitch in an intrasquad game on the 22nd.
Ken Kadokura said that the back discomfort he suffered the other day has eased and he did some longtossing Saturday.
Reliever Kiyoshi Toyoda wtossed 91 pitches in the pen Saturday and threw a few curve balls in addition to his usual slider, fastball and forkball.
Jeremy Powell will start Sunday's intrasquad game.
Reliever Satoshi Fukuda threw 74 pitches in the pen with Hara as his catcher while coaches worked with him on correcting a flaw in his delivery.
Another reliever, Shintaro Yoshitake, ran his pitch count up to 240 Saturday and said afterward that he is ready to begin particpating in games.
Miscellaneous Yankees southpaw Kei Igawa threw 46 pitches, including ten curveballs, while focusing on keeping the ball down. He was impressed by the control of his fellow hurlers. After the workout ended, Igawa was playing shogi (Japanese chess) on his cellphone against one of the Japanese writers. The guys who locker on either side of Igawa, Mike Myers and Wang Chien-ming, wondered what Igawa was doing and began asking him questions about it. "It's a good way to relax," said Igawa of the game.
In the Mariners camp, catcher Kenji Johjima was concentrating going the other way during his batting practice rounds.
Ichiro concluded his Japan workouts at Kobe Green Stadium Saturday and will head to the M's camp in the next day or two.
Boston reliever Hideki Okajima ran into former Yomiuri teammates Bryan Corey and Gabe Kapler Saturday. Corey is a spring training invitee and Kapler is managing down in A ball for the Red Sox. "It was nice seeing some familiar faces," Okajima told reporters.
For the Jason Varietk marching and chowder society, he continues to get a lot of ink in Japan due to his association with Daisuke Matsuzaka, as this piece from Sports Nippon shows. Buy five copies for your mother, Jason.
The same paper also called Josh Beckett and Jon Papelbon members of the so-called "Matsuzaka generation," because they are the same age as the former Seibu ace. That was an appellation originally created to describe the class of pitchers who came along in Japan at the same time as Daisuke did.
Pirates spring training invitee Masumi Kuwata said that he was happy with the environment he is currently in at the team's spring camp. Pitching coach Jim Colborn, elaborating on comments he made Friday, told the Japanese press that he had explained to the other players what Kuwata had done over the course of his tenure with Yomiuri, but they let it go in one ear and out the other. "But now I think they get it after seeing him today," he added. "He is a definite plus for us."
Manager Jim Tracy was equally as effusive, calling Kuwata "a real pro. He provides a nice example for the other players."
Kuwata himself was especially pleased at the compliments he received for his fielding. He is an eight time gold glove winner in the Central League. He also threw 31 pitches in the bullpen as Colborn watched.
Dodgers closer Takashi Saito, one of the biggest suprises in MLB in 2006, said Saturday that he is more relaxed this season than last, "but not overly so." Manager Grady Little said that "Takashi was a godsend for us last year." Saito, though, has an aching calf muscle and the Dodgers are making him take it easy, not even allowing him to wear spikes Saturday.
Koshien hero Yuki Saito, who is now at Waseda University, could become the first freshman to start on Opening Day of the Tokyo Big Six University League spring schedule since 1930 and the first to do so in a spring game for his particular school ever. Waseda is slated to faceoff against perpetual cellar dwellers Tokyo University on April 14th. He threw 79 pitches (all fastballs) during batting practice Saturday and the team's head coach said that Saito is looking the best of all the hurlers on their staff right now.
Among those he is competing with for that honor is Saibi High grad Yuya Fukui, who was drafted by Yomiuri, but turned them down and instead decided to take a year off to study for Waseda's entrance exam before becoming part of the team this season.
Former Kintetsu ace Hideyuki Awano has taken a coaching position with Sumitomo Metals Kashima's industrial league team. Awano has NPB coaching experience as well.
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