Spring Training 2018 – Le Troisieme Cours

Before we get to the highlights (yes, there were a couple of games!), here are the latest bits of news:

– Manager Tomoaki Kanemoto has declared that Yusuke Ohyama will get a chance at third, which means moving ironman Takashi Toritani over to second base. I guess Hiroki Uemoto is out of a job!

– Hiroto Saiki, who is still in his teens, is making a lot of commotion with his pitching. He has thrown well in both intrasquad and exhibition play so far, and is vying for a spot in the starting rotation. Competition is stiff, but I would wager on Kanemoto choosing youth over veterans if the race is close enough.

– Down on the farm, Hayata itoh, he of the new cheer song, has drawn praise from manager Akihiro Yano for his running. It will be interesting to see how he is used this coming season.

– Also, triple-digit man Shintaro Yokota has impressed coaches and fans alike with how well he seems to be doing in his workouts. Exactly a year ago, he left Okinawa because of migraines, and ended up needing intense therapy for brain tumors. He is a development player for now, but seems to be running, throwing and swinging the bat well.

And now, on to game action! The Tigers faced the Yamato-led BayStars on Sunday in their first practice game of the year. The scoring came quickly and frequently. In the bottom of the first with a runner on base, Wilin Rosario needed just one pitch to do this:

A couple of innings later with the team up 3-0 (thanks in part to another Rosario RBI), Kento Itohara joined in the fun. (He also got the nickname 小サリオ – shosario – from Kanemoto.)

Not to be outdone, soon after, Masahiro Nakatani also went yard. (Sorry, my best Twitter video source had his account suspended! No video of this one!)

Now, results in these games mean nothing, and quite honestly, the home runs are pretty pointless, too. Except for the fact that these young men are fighting for playing time come April, and obviously hitting home runs helps get the coaches’ attention. So we sit back and enjoy the bombs and the win. For the record, Yamato was hitless, and his mates only managed 3 singles all game against Yuta Iwasada, Taiki Ono and Saiki. Final Score: Hanshin 8, Yokohama 0.

The very next day, our boys had another intrasquad tilt. And once again, Rosario showed off his power against Takumi Akiyama (who allowed just this one long fly in 2 innings of work)…

Most people have forgotten that Fumiya Hojoh is in the running for playing time at shortstop. He did a decent job of getting the coaches’ attention with a long fly to left center.

Other guys to record RBIs were Nakatani, Fumihito Haraguchi and Taiga Egoshi (who continues – foolishly in my opinion – to try to become a switch hitter).

Today (Tuesday) was a regular day of practice. Rosario hit the scoreboard clock with one of his batting practice home runs, and the media continues to go crazy about him. They have him “on pace for 95 home runs” this year. Smirk.

On the farm, the boys played an exhibition game of their own, against a local industrial league team. They won 6-2, with Yutaro Itayama getting the lone extra base hit and also stealing a base. On the mound, Daichi Takeyasu and Koki Moriya each threw 3 shutout innings.

Camp is half done! Here’s to another solid 2 weeks of baseball before coming back to mainland for the exhibition schedule! Hang in there, everyone! “Real” baseball is just weeks away!

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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.

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