Spring Training 2017 – 2nd Cool* News

* The Japanese use the word クール (from the French cours = course / installment / season) to divide the spring training sessions into parts. But since クール is usually used to mean “cool” I have turned it into a cool headline. Hope you’re クール with that!

Happy National Foundation Day, everyone! Yesterday was a day off for the players, and today all the rest of Japan gets to rest and remember… that it’s still cold outside. Anyways, here’s the news from the camps.

Ginoza, Okinawa – Top Squad

Eric Campbell continues to get lots of attention. He hit 13 taters in batting practice on the first day back after the day off. Today he apparently smashed 4 straight pitches over the wall, so he is making the case that he may provide more power than was originally anticipated. He has also taken fielding practice all over the infield (except for shortstop). Manager Tomoaki Kanemoto has said there’s even the possibility that he starts the season at second base. Seems the club is confident in his defense, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

If you missed it in the last post, Marcos Mateo has returned to the Dominican Republic for an unspecified issue with his children. His return date has not yet been determined.

Randy Messenger is cruising along, entering his eighth camp and knowing exactly what he needs to get done to prepare for the season. He was once again asked if he hopes to be starting pitcher on Opening Day. He said, “Not hope. I will be!” (Or something like that. Translating translations means sometimes meaning gets lost.) In any case, he annually makes “promises” to Sanspo about what he will do in the upcoming season. If he fulfills, they give him some reward. If not, he has some penalty to pay. So last season he promised to hit 2 home runs. He hit none, and had to give them one of his personal photos to post on their site. This year they said he needs to duplicate Yutaka Enatsu‘s feat of pitching a complete game shutout and hitting a walkoff home run. He balked at the request, instead saying he will lead the CL in innings pitched. Seems pretty reasonable.

Yoshio Itoi took some practice swings and has been running again, and may join the team in its workouts from Sunday, but he will still not go at full speed for awhile. The idea is that if he can get into 5 or so exhibition games in March, that should be enough of a tune-up for him to be ready on Opening Day. Apparently the free agent signee has been really popular at the camp and has been signing a lot of autographs.

Yuta Iwasada has been named a reserve on the Samurai Japan team for the upcoming WBC tournament. Manager Kokubo has made it clear that he will not swap pitchers in and out unless there are injuries, so the odds of Iwasada actually playing are quite slim. Still, it’s pretty cool to have a second Tiger named to the team (after Shintaro Fujinami, who has been pitching using WBC regulation balls).

Fumihito Haraguchi wants to win the battle for main catcher, but has recently started practicing in the field at first base. The team has no clear first baseman, and has tried Masahiro Nakatani and Shintaro Yokota as well. Speaking which, the latter has returned to Osaka to see why his headaches have persisted for the past several days. Hopefully he will be better really soon.

Second round draft pick Taiki Ono has continued to get attention from various people. The coaching staff has had their eyes on him, but even legend Masa Yamamoto (formerly of the Dragons) has been checking out new pitchers at all the camps on Okinawa, and said Ono has impressed him the most so far.

Aki, Kochi – Second Squad

Farm manager Masayuki Kakefu has named his #4 hitter for the entire exhibition schedule for February. Third baseman Naomasa Yohkawa, who led the Western (farm) League last season in home runs (14) and RBIs (61), has been pulverizing the ball in batting practice. Reports are that he hit 41 HRs in 184 swings on February 2, 28 HRs in 105 swings on the 3rd, and 51 HRs in 175 swings on February 9. The 25-year old obviously has power, but can he do it against real pitching? That remains to be seen.

News from Across the Ocean

Rafael Dolis has officially signed with Hanshin for the 2017 season. The Dominican reliever injured his right elbow last year and went on the disabled list on July 31st. He underwent surgery in October in America, and was thought to be unfit for action this season. However, upon scouting him in his homeland and watching video and talking with him, both sides have agreed to bring him back. He should come back to Japan in time to take part in some spring training action. His acquisition means the club has 3 Dominicans in the bullpen, and because of the import limitation, at least one of them will be inactive at all times, assuming Messenger stays in the rotation.

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T-Ray is the founder, chief writer and Junior Executive Vice President of Hanshin Tigers English News (H-TEN). Find him on Twitter @thehanshintiger.