CL News and Notes: Kai-Wen Cheng and Yasutomo Kubo likely to join Hanshin rotation before All-Star break
Masahiro Araki took grounders at second base during practice at Nagoya Dome yesterday. With Tatsuro Iwasaki playing well, there's a chance Araki could be moved back to second base -- the combination of Hirokazu Ibata (58 G, .211/.280/.244), Naomichi Donoue (9 G, .188/.188/.188), and Keisuke Mizuta (8 G, .154/.154/.154) hasn't worked out well.
Jason Standridge will most likely get today's start against the Yomiuri Giants. His next start will then probably come on 5 days of rest against the Hiroshima Carp (18th at Mazda Stadium).
The start on the 16th vs Yokohama (at Yokohama) could go to Kai-Wen Cheng; Yasutomo Kubo could follow with a start on the 19th vs Hiroshima (at Mazda Stadium). Kubo is also scheduled to to start a Ni-gun game against Orix on the 13th (5 innings or 80 pitches, whichever comes first).
So the Tigers' rotation over the week or so could be: Standridge (7/12 vs Yomiuri), Naoto Tsuru (7/13), Minoru Iwata (7/14), Randy Messenger (7/15 vs Yokohama; removed from active roster after game to make room for Chen the following day), Chen (7/16), Nomi (7/17), Standridge (18th vs Hiroshima), Kubo (19th), ?? (20th).
According to Nikkan Sports, when reporters asked batting coach Yutaka Wada if it was possible they might go with someone else at DH, other than Takahiro Arai and Matt Murton, he said, "It isn't as if there's no chance, but doing so could lead to mixing things around a lot." When asked about the batting order, Wada said, "We want the batting order to be in the best shape regardless of who is pitching. Arai is also starting to come around. I think it also makes sense for us that he make it back to where he should be as soon as possible."
Sanspo has a slightly longer quote from Wada:
We'll decide tomorrow whether we stay with our currently batting order or change things up. Ideally, we'd like to see Arai get back to batting fourth again as soon as possible. After all, that is how we started the season. ... When you mix things up with the batting order, some players react well and some player...not so well. We'll need to consider that as well. ... More than who we'll be facing, we just want to go with our best batting order. That's how we'll probably do things during our 9-game stretch before the All-Star break. The manager probably has his own thoughts as well, so [the decision] will be made once we're at the stadium and we see what we have. And it seems like Arai is slowly turning things around. ... If Arai can return to batting fourth, things will settle down [again]. But until then, we need to figure out what to do. This is something I'll discuss carefully with the manager.
It appears Yuya Nohara will be taking over Wei-Chu Lin's spot on the active roster.
Nikkan Sports points out three things to watch for during Tigers' 3-game series against the Yomiuri Giants that begins tonight. They are: 1) jump on the starters early to neutralize the end game and avoid having to face Shun Tono; Hiroyuki Kobayashi vs Saburo Omura (former teammates); and Standridge vs Josh Fields (the two have faced each other before at Triple-A).
With Shun Tono heading to the bullpen, and Norihito Kaneto not doing well as a starter (he went 0-4 in his last 5 starts), the Giants may give Dicky Gonzalez another shot at the starting rotation (possibly on the 14th vs Hanshin).
Josh Fields is apparently looking forward to a chance to talk to Matt Murton (HAN) about what it's like playing in Japan. The two played for teams in Chicago between 2005 and 2008 (Fields for the White Sox and Murton for the Cubs).
Hirokazu Sawamura could get two more starts before the All-Star break: on 5 days of rest on the 15th vs Yakult and on 4 days of rest on the 20th vs Chunichi.
Tatsunori Hara is in the final year of a 3-year deal. When team chairman Tsuneo Watanabe was asked if Hara would get an extension, he replied, "How can you expect me to answer that [at this point in the season]?"
Kyohei Muranaka could start a game against the Yomiuri Giants on the 15th.
Yokohama Bay Stars
Tomokazu Oka joined up with the Ichi-gun team at Hiroshima yesterday. He could get a start on the 14th against the Carp.