There was a special segement during a news show just now that posted the following line-up as a possibility for Japan's first WBC game on Thursday:
No real surprises here. This is more or less what has been used during the practice matches over the last week or so. Hara could still do something come Thursday, but my guess is that this what he goes with.
Hara also broke down his methodology a bit more.
- He wanted to build the line-up entirely around Ichiro. This we already sort of knew.
- He picked Aoki and Nakajima to hit before Ichiro because they:
- hit for high OBPs last season
- see lots of pitches (try and knock the starters out early)
- He wanted a lefty pull-hitter to hit behind Ichiro because of the hole Ichiro can create when he's on first. Inaba was chosen because he's a good contact, pull-hitter. His manager during the regular season (Nashida) also mentioned that Inaba is a very good situational hitter and isn't afraid to sacrifice himself to move runners. A "perfect" hitter to hit behind Aoki, Nakajima, and Ichiro.
- The 7, 8, and 9 hitters are all major leaguers. This isn't by coincidence. Hara wanted to make the end of the line-up just a tough as the top and middle thirds. By placing major leaguers at the bottom of the lineup, he's hoping that it places more pressure on the pitcher and potentially less pressure on the hitters.
The show then went on to talk a little about the pitching staff (a mini interview with Samurai Japan pitching coach Yamada).
- Daisuke Matsuzaka is basically the "captain" of the pitching staff.
- The coaches knew he would be making the start against Korea the day Miyazaki camp began.
- Korea is tough line-up, but Yamada feels that Matsuzaka's two-seamer could neutralize some of the righties in the lineup from diving in.
- Watanabe Shunsuke will also most likely play a big role against Korea as he appears to do well against him (again, his submarine delivery makes it difficult for righties to dive into the ball).
A few other news and notes (culled from various sports shows on TV):
It was raining today so the team worked out at the Jingu indoor training facilities.
Ichiro started his practice with light throwing, moved to soft tosses, and then BP. There is some concern about his slump at the plate, but Ichiro doesn't appear worried.
Daisuke Matsuzaka spent time running and doing sprints in order to keep his legs loose. He doesn't want to have to worry about his leg cramping up against like it did during his start against the Giants the other day.