Spring Training 2017 – 5th Cool* News

* If you’ve read the reports for the 1st Cool, the 2nd Cool, the 3rd Cool or the 4th 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. Keep your クール everyone – you only have to put up with this once more after this one!


Happy Independence Day, my Estonian friends! For the rest of you, guess what – it’s FRIDAY! Today is a day off for the players, their last one until camp wraps up on the 28th. This is the news from both camps since February 21.

Ginoza, Okinawa – Top Squad

The 5th Cool was just 3 days long, so there is not a lot to report. But here is what the intrasquad game on February 22 produced, new-wise:

Rafael Dolis had his audition in the fourth inning. He gave up three consecutive hits (all singles) and a run scored on the ensuing grounder which the infield was unable to turn into a double play. Still, he hit 154 km/h on the radar gun, which was enough to earn him a contract for 2017. He will earn an estimated ¥50-million (~$440,000 US) and will once again wear #98.

The other two Dominican relievers, Marcos Mateo and Roman Mendez, threw an inning apiece for the other side. Mateo pitched the third inning and struggled. He walked two, gave up two hits, and three runs scored (though two were only thanks to back-to-back errors by the fielders). Mendez surrendered a lead-off hit but then got three straight outs. (These three dreadlocked hurlers threw back-to-back-to-back, leaving fans puzzled as to who was on the mound, apparently.)

Speaking of errors, the two teams combined for six gaffes, raising the ire of manager Tomoaki Kanemoto. Let’s just hope this does drag into the new season and cause fans to have to re-live the agony of 2016 again.

We would be remiss to leave out the other two import players, who figured into the action together. Randy Messenger started the game for one side, pitching two strong innings and giving up just one hit – to fellow American Eric Campbell, who picked up his first of the preseason. He ended up the first half of a double play, so Randy finished his job facing the minimum six batters. Campbell, for his part, drew two walks later in the game: one from Mateo and another from Yuta Iwasada.

 

Campbell also took part in “situational hitting” practice on the 23rd. He told the media afterwards that he had only bunted around 5 times while in America, but that he was willing to do whatever it would take to help the team win. He was asked to hit the ball to the right side of the field to advance the runner, and did extremely well. Kanemoto expressed his pleasure at Soup’s dexterity and serious approach to the game. While he will not likely meet the media’s expectations when it comes to power, he has drawn praise for his hard working demeanor and openness to a new style of baseball.

 

Speaking of guys getting their first hits of the spring, rumors had 2016 1st round pick Yusuke Ohyama (IF) packing his bags and heading down to the farm. However, on the 22nd he got his first two hits of the preseason after 15 hitless at bats in game action. He smoked a hard single off Kyuji Fujikawa and the other off Dolis.

As for the pitchers, other than the aforementioned Messenger, the other hurler to get plenty of attention was last year’s 2nd round pick Taiki Ono. He breezed through his inning of work, dropping three straight hitters despite not have the best of control. Still, the press is reporting that Kanemoto said they have a future big-time ace on their hands. (I did not hear the quote so I hesitate to fully believe it.)

Outfielder Yoshio Itoi got a little scare earlier in the week when he was jogging deep in the outfield. He took a line drive directly to his arm near the elbow. The hitter: Kosuke Fukudome. Fortunately it was not a major injury, and after the bruise heals no lingering effects are expected. Itoi has said that he wants to take part in some of the team’s exhibition games (typically veterans sit much of the schedule to give the youngsters a chance to fight for the last few roster spots) because he wants to be 100% ready for the season opener.

Ironman Takashi Toritani has been getting a lot of encouragement from former ball players to just make the transition to third base instead of fighting for the shortstop position against a red-hot Fumiya Hojoh. The all-time ironman in Japan, Sachio Kinugawa, hopes to see Toritani keep playing every game, but also reminded him that even the great Cal Ripken made the switch to third as father time caught up to him. No word on whether Tori will heed the advice or keep trying to defy age. He will be 36 this June.

Shintaro Fujinami has left Hanshin’s camp to join the Samurai Japan workouts in Miyazaki Prefecture. He will not return to the team until the end of the World Baseball Classic.

The team has a scheduled exhibition game on February 25 (Saturday) against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.


Aki, Kochi – Second Squad

The farm boys had an exhibition game against Seibu’s agriculturists. The outcome wasn’t pretty, as Hanshin mustered just 4 hits and one run. Sixth round pick Shungo Fukunaga pitched three decent innings (2 H, 1 R) but third-year hurler Koki Moriya looked overwhelmed (1 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 R). Little-known and long-forgotten reliever Kentaro Kuwahara remains stingy, having given up no runs so far this spring.

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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.