Spring Training 2017 – 4th Cool* News

* If you’ve read the reports for the 1st Cool, the 2nd Cool, or the 3rd Cool, you know this already. For those of you who are new to H-TEN… 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. Not sure if it’s a クール idea or not, mind you!

Happy Presidents’ Day, my American friends! Happy World Day of Social Justice, everyone else! Today is a day off for the players, but that has not stopped some of them from getting out there and practicing anyways! This is the news from both camps since February 15.

Ginoza, Okinawa – Top Squad

On February 16, Hanshin played against a Korean team training down in Okinawa – the Samsung Lions. Our starting pitcher was Minoru Iwata, who imploded in the intrasquad game during 3rd Cool. In this one, he loaded the bases up in the first inning but got out without giving up a run. Then he pitched a clean second and left the game. The bats really came to life, shellacking the Korean pitchers for 5 runs in the first inning and 4 more in the sixth. Shun Takayama got 2 RBIs, as did Fumihito Haraguchi, Yutaro Itayama and Masahiro Nakatani (who was a few feet from a home run on one of his hits). Fumiya Araki contributed with a rib too, and Fumiya Hojoh also hit the ball well. The shining star, though, was reliever Takumi Akiyama, who threw 4 innings of 1-hit ball. He hopes to become the team’s 6th starter this season. Highlights here, though these vids often get deleted quick. (Eric Campbell was supposed to play in this game but was bedridden due to a stomach flu. He returned to the practice facilities 2 days later.)

Rafael Dolis made it to camp and threw a bullpen while manager Tomoaki Kanemoto watched. The skipper says Dolis threw better than he expected. A day later in batting practice, two of the catchers watched 21 of Dolis’ 36 pitches go by for balls, but the ones that were in the zone were near impossible to hit, they said. As previously mentioned, he will throw in the team’s next exhibition game, which will go a long way toward determining whether or not the team signs him to a deal for 2017.

Yoshio Itoi took batting practice outside (in front of fans) for the first time this spring, wowing them with his ability to put bat on ball consistently. He hit 6 over the fence his first day and 11 the next. One of them went 140 meters (460 feet). The coaching staff still wants him to take things slowly, but he has said he is ready to go full speed.

Finally, Randy Messenger invited Campbell to stand in the batter’s box during his bullpen session. The idea was to get the new American Tiger used to the types of pitches he will see in the Japanese game. It’s great to see Randy taking even more leadership duties upon himself, and obviously he wants Campbell to succeed in Japan.

On February 19, the team had an exhibition game against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Shintaro Fujinami started the game for the Tigers, and threw a very clean 3 first innings. He ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a leadoff walk. That runner came around to score on the lone hit Fujinami gave up, and he hit two batters to load the bases with one out, but made his way out of the inning without further damage. He then threw a clean fifth, finishing his outing after 70 pitches (1 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 1 ER, 7 K). Yuya Yokoyama (first round pick in 2014) came in for three innings and gave up just two hits while striking out two. Suguru Iwazaki gave up a hit in the game’s final inning but that was all.

On the offensive side, the Tigers were not at their sharpest, but Haraguchi and Takayama had multi-hit games again. The game got tied up at 1 in the bottom of the last frame as Nakatani hit a sacrifice fly to deep center. Newcomer Yusuke Ohyama went 0-for-3 and is still hitless after 15 spring at bats. Video highlights here (not sure how long this link will work).

Aki, Kochi – Second Squad

Not a lot to report here. The biggest and best news, though, is that Tsuyoshi Nishioka (torn left Achilles tendon) has taken his first batting practice of the spring, hitting from the right side of the plate and knocking four balls over the fence. He has not set a date for his return to full practices, but he looks to be ahead of the initial prognosis of post-All-Star break.

Injury Notes

Araki injured himself on the 17th and will be training apart from the rest of the team. His return date to full workouts is yet to be determined.

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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.