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Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 31, 2010

by on Dec.31, 2010 @ 2:38 pm, under NPB
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Kenji Jojima won't be swinging a bat in January (for the entire month), but will instead focus on strengthening his lower body.  Jojima has already placed an order of new bats for the 2011 (same type as this season) but won't be getting them until the start of spring camp (early February).  That was apparently done on purpose to avoid the temptation of swinging a bat.

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Ikkestu Sho has managed to drop his weight from 90kg (at the end of the season) to 85kg (current).  Sho returned to his homeland Taiwan for the first time since turning pro this winter and has been taking advantage of the warmer weather (around 20 degrees C).  He also plans to begin a throwing program in January and will return to Japan on 1/18.

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The Tigers may move Kazuya Tsutsui into the starting rotation next season.  The team apparently wants another lefty in the rotation.

Assuming no injuries, Yasutomo Kubo (RHP), Jason Standridge (RHP), Atsushi Nomi (LHP), and Minoru Iwata (LHP) will likely anchor the first four spots in the rotation.  The remaining two spots will be up for grabs and the Tigers are leaning towards letting Tsutsui compete for one of those spots.  Yuya Ando (RHP), Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi (LHP), Takumi Akiyama (RHP), Naoto Tsuru (RHP), and Tatsuya Kojima (LHP) are all expected to compete with Tsutsui.

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The Tigers are considering giving the exhibition game opening day start on 2/26 (vs Orix) to Takumi Akiyama.

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Takahiro Arai closed out his training for the year on Thursday.  Arai appeared to be fully satisfied with the progress he has with his training so far this off-season.  He'll apparently take New Year's Eve off and start back up again on the 1st (with lower body exercises).

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Ni-gun pitching coach Keiichi Yabu is thinking about being a BP pitcher during spring camp next year.  If he does, he won't make it easy for the batters and will instead challenge them.  Yabu is even thinking about taking his turn in the bullpen to keep the youngsters on their toes.  Of course, he'll need to get permission from the team, and he'll only go as far as he can without disrupting his "real" job of coaching.

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And Jeff Williams told Daily Sports that he has no intention of retiring from baseball and plans on pitching in 2011.

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Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 28, 2010

by on Dec.28, 2010 @ 11:10 am, under NPB
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The Tigers announced that they'll be holding a tour of seat packages at Koshien Stadium between 1/21 - 1/23 (11am - 3pm, free entry).  The tour will be designed to give fans an idea of where they'll be sitting in the stadium if / when they purchase season tickets.  The Tigers will also be giving away ticket holders to the first 1,000 fans that take the tour (no purchase of tickets are necessary).  More detailed information can also be found at the official Tigers' website.

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Melbo Clothing Manufacturing's Tailor Fields became the official suit sponsor for the Hanshin Tigers on Monday.  The two sides agreed to a 2-year sponsorship deal that will begin on 1/1/2011.  As the official suit sponsor, Tailor Fields will provide the team with suits that the players will wear during official team functions.

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Ni-gun batting coach Hiroshi Yagi's thoughts on newly acquired Ryota Arai:

He was Chunichi's idle clean-up batter.  From our point of view, he was a batter we didn't want to face because of his power.  We didn't really like facing him in run-scoring opportunities. ... His strength his his power.  But he's still rough around the edges, so he's not 100% ready for playing at a high level.  But he's also good enough to where he really has no problems with playing at the Ni-gun level. ... He hasn't been able to make it at the Ichi-gun level because he still needs to overcome a hurdle [or two]...  That's probably it.  If he can grab onto something and get past that hurdle, I think he'll be an interesting player.

Incidentally, if the Arai brothers manage to hit homers in the same game next season, they'll become the first brother combo to do so since the Kato brothers (Haruo and Masakazu) accomplished the feat in 1950.

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Three players are still not signed to contracts for the 2011 season: Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Kenji Jojima, and Yasutomo Kubo.  Of the three, Shimoyanagi and Jojima weren't expected to sign before the end of the year.

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The Tigers announced that Ni-gun pitching coach Keiichi Yabu's uniform number will be 80.  The Tigers have now more or less finalized their coaching staff for the 2011 season.

Yabu also spent about 5 hours of his day on Monday sitting through meetings in a hotel in Hyogo with various members of the Tigers' staff in order to catch him up on the current state of affairs.

Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 23, 2010

by on Dec.23, 2010 @ 11:49 am, under NPB
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Keiichi Yabu visited Naruohama on the Wednesday for the first time since taking his coaching job with the team.

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Yasutomo Kubo apparently asked the owners of Koshien Stadium to open the facilities up on New Year's Day and on Sundays, but was turned down.  His suggestion to open the facilities up 30 minutes earlier every day was also shot down.

Kubo has actually been suggesting the changes to the schedule since last season, but stadium officials have repeatedly said "no" for a number of reasons, including not being able to secure the appropriate number of staff members.

It seems Kubo is now on a mission to recruit some teammates in the hopes that numbers can persuade the stadium officials to change their minds.

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Ken Nishimura has been watching a lot of footage of himself pitching this winter -- footage that has been taken from games in which he has pitched well.  Nishimura's reason for doing this: to keep a positive image of himself while he practices and to burn his "good" mechanics into his mind.

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Kogoshima Saifukuji high priest Ekan Ikeguchi feels that Tomoaki Kanemoto still has plenty left in the tank to keep playing, but needs to heal his right shoulder first.   To that end, Ikeguchi would like to help Kanemoto heal by giving him "ki" (氣).

Kanemoto has also stated that he'd like to play for at least another year or two.  On Thursday, Kanemoto woke up at 7am and then moved outside at around 8am for some stretches and running.  In the afternoon he spent about 3 hours working indoors (strengthening his right shoulder).

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Hirotaka Egusa started a throwing program at Naruohama on Wednesday.  For the first time since he injured his left shoulder, Egusa took the mound in the bullpen and tossed 30 pitches to a squatting catcher.  Egusa told reporters that he had a good feel for the ball and would throw again when the weather was a little warmer.

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Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 21, 2010

by on Dec.21, 2010 @ 12:38 pm, under NPB
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Akinobu Mayumi would like to see Keiichi Yabu help develop the next Takumi Akiyama (in other words, help improve the development of high school talent like Shinta Hifumi and Akira Iwamoto).

Mayumi also said that he wanted to have a good idea of what the opening day roster was going to be like by 3/16.  That means players will have about 12 exhibition games (2/26 - 3/14) to show that they're good enough for the active roster.  Foreign players will also be pulled into exhibition games early on to give them enough time to prepare for the regular season.

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Batting coach Yutaka Wada told reporters that he plans on pushing young players hard during spring camp -- they'll be fully steeped in baseball and nothing but baseball.  The Tigers also have two practice games scheduled during their Okinawa leg of spring camp -- veterans will be allowed to skip these games but youngsters will be required to play in them.

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Ken Nishimura is hoping that he'll be able to work with Yabu again.  Nishimura met Yabu in Arizona in October 2009 and was given some pitching tips that apparently stuck.

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Yasutomo Kubo has one of the quicker motions to the plate. Kubo was also the only pitcher that threw enough innings to qualify for pitching titles and not allow any stolen bases.  On Monday, Kubo told reporters that he actually wanted runners to run.

"The ideal situation would be to give the runners the perception that they can go and then throw them out," said Kubo.  "I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing, but picking runners off is a lot easier than getting batters out.  I think about those kinds of things every now and again."

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Kazuhito Futagami spent Monday morning working out (running and playing catch) at Naruohama.

Said Futagami, "I couldn't really do much this season so I want to make sure I'm physically ready for the 2011 season."

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Hirotaka Egusa threw 50 pitches to a standing catcher in the Naruohama bullpen on Monday.

"I'm feeling great," said Egusa.  "Getting my shoulder back to normal and being able to pitch is very important [for me right now].  I want to start pitching again."

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Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 19, 2010

by on Dec.19, 2010 @ 5:51 pm, under NPB
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Matt Murton has picked up a new black glove to go along with his cork-colored glove (Amer Sports, Wilson Division -- seems they also made gloves for Greg Maddux and Barry Bonds at the same Akune factory).  He may also change his bat color from black to gray (Old Hickory via i Sports).  The size, shape, and weight of each will most likely remain the same.

Murton has also been working out near his Florida home, primarily with weights -- about 5 hours a day at 5 days a week.  He may also workout with fellow Georgia Tech alums Mark Teixeira (NYY) and Matt Wieters (BAL) later this winter.

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Wei-Chu Lin's new bat, based on an Seiichi Uchikawa model bat that has a slightly thinner handle, arrived in Naruohama on Saturday.  Lin will now use the winter to get used to the new bat

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The Hanshin Tigers are thinking of making their exhibition game against the Rakuten Eagles on 3/9 at Koshien Stadium Keiichi Yabu's retirement game.

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Yasutomo Kubo will be undertaking a new kind training program that will apparently make him use parts of his body he isn't used to using, like using his non-dominant hand to throw the ball, to improve his motor reflexes/skills.  Shinjiro Hiyama is apparently helping Kubo with the training.

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Daiki Kiyohara will be meeting with Kei Igawa for some dinner during the off-season.  Depending on their schedules, they might be able to work out together again for the first time since 2009.

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With the addition of Daiki Enokida (1st round), the Tigers now have three Fukuoka University grads on the team Hirokazu Shiranita and Yuhei Kai are the other two.

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Kyuji Fujikawa's advice to the younger catchers on the team: take pitchers out to dinner and gain their trust.  Fujikawa also apparently believes that Keisuke Kano is better suited as a catcher.

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Shunsuke Fujikawa was a guest on Mainichi Broadcasting Systems radio program MBS Toragumi Tigers Live on Saturday.  He told listeners he didn't have any plans of taking breaks during the off-season (he wants to break the starting line-up) and he also hasn't thought about playing in the Majors (he's a lifetime Tiger).

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Keiichi Yabu officially joins Hanshin Tigers coaching staff

by on Dec.17, 2010 @ 5:18 pm, under NPB
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The Hanshin Tigers announced today, via press conference, that Keiichi Yabu will be joining the team as a Ni-gun pitching coach.  This officially marks the end of Yabu's career.

UPDATE (12/18 135pm JST): it's a one-year deal wroth 15M yen.

In other team related news:

The Tigers and Kyuji Fujikawa agreed to a 2011 salary of 400M yen today (no change from this past season). Regarding his desire to play in the Majors, GM Shoji Numasawa told reporters the team has a general rule of not using the posting system for any players.

The team would like to color the stands in red whenever Matt Murton steps up to bat (red = Murton).  And in order to make that happen, they're thinking about selling red mufflers (scarves) next season.  The Tigers are also considering a t-shirt featuring the phrase Kamisama-wa watashi-no chikara-desu (or God provides me with strength).  Murton merchandise has apparently sold well -- just this past October, the Tigers sold a limited edition photo panel featuring Murton for 15,750 yen and sold out on all 214 of them.

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Keiichi Yabu: I haven’t retired yet

by on Dec.16, 2010 @ 11:30 am, under NPB
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1:50pm JST

Yabu told reporters that he'd like to see his old teammates, Shinobu Fukuhara and Yuya Ando, add pitching into their 40s as a goal.

12:32pm JST

Even thought it appears as though Yabu will be taking the coaching job, he plans on continuing to pitch on the side just to see how he can keep touching 140km/h.

Said Yabu, "Just out of my own curiosity, I want to see how long I can keep throwing in the 140km/h range.  Choji Murata throws close to 140km/h at 61, so I'd like to see if I can also do that with some training.  I think I could also probably keep pitching until I'm 55."

12/17/2010 12:23am JST

Yabu's meeting with the Tigers apparently lasted 2 hours and 10 minutes.  Yabu told reporters after the meeting that they touched on a number of issues and that he was offered a pitching a coach job.  And while it seems he never mentioned what his decision was, he did say that his mind was made up.

12/16/2010 7:29pm JST

Yabu and the Tigers met at a hotel earlier today and according to Sponichi, the two sides are very close to coming to  deal that will make Yabu a Ni-gun pitching coach.  An announcement could be made within the next couple of days.

4:04pm JST

Keiichi Yabu arrived at Kansai Airport yesterday from Seattle amidst rumors that he'll be taking a coaching job with the Hanshin Tigers.  But to the surprise of reporters, Yabu said that he still hasn't retired and that until he signs a contract for a coaching job he's still open to continuing his pitching career (he can still top out at about 144km/h).  Yabu also mentioned the concept of pitch limits in order to protect arms and shoulders; individually designed training programs; and the Hawaiian Winter Leagues for players that need more playing time.

Club president Nobuo Minami told reporters yesterday that he would be involved in the negotiations.  Minami also said he realized how difficult it was for players to retire, but that he hoped Yabu would be able to make a clean break.

(UPDATED @ 4:04pm JST with more information.)

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Hanshin Tigers News and Notes: December 9, 2010

by on Dec.09, 2010 @ 3:44 pm, under NPB
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The Tigers have been talking to Kyuji Fujikawa's agent about his 2011 contract and will likely settle on a 1-year deal worth 400M yen (or a tad higher) before the end of the year.

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Takashi Toritani plans on working out in Nago, Okinawa again in January.

The Tigers are also rumored to be preparing a multi-year deal (3 or more years) worth around 300M yen a year.  Toritani is scheduled to earn his domestic FA option next season.

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Tomoaki Kanemoto worked out for about 7 hours on Wednesday (from 10am to 5:30pm; includes a break for lunch).  Seems 7 hours is a career high for Kanemoto.

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Takahiro Arai is looking to hit 30 homers next season.  If he does, he'll become the first Japanese right-handed hitter on the Tigers to do it since Akinobu Okada (35 HR) and Akinobu Mayumi (34 HR) in 1985.

In his career, Arai has only managed to hit 30 or more homers once: as a member of the Hiroshima Carp he hit 43 homers in 2005.

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Ken Nishimura is continuing to work on his walking stature as part of his training.  Nishimura started the walking exercises last year (fall camp) after the coaches advised him to give it a try after noticing his bad posture.

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Tatsuya Kojima isn't taking any time off this year and has been working on improving his mechanics by checking out past video footage (back from his college and industrial league years).

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Sponichi reports that Kenji Jojima will most likely attend Ni-gun spring camp next year.  There was talk about either sending Jojima to a warm region for his rehab or having him tag along with the Ichi-gun group for spring camp (Okinawa), but after the team and Jojima spoke, it was decided a Ni-gun start would be best.

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Takumi Akiyama will be taking part in the Jojima Group workout sessions that begin on 1/9 in Sasebo, Nagasaki.  At this point, it seems Jojima will be able to attend the sessions as well, but will likely be working on a completely separate training program.

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Training coach Atsunori Ito is already thinking about what he'll have the team's 2010 draft picks do during Rookie Workouts that begin on 1/9.  While specific workouts haven't been decided on yet, it does appear as though the Tigers plan on reintroducing workouts from the past (like the screaming while running drills).  The team also appears to be concerned about creating a solid foundation for the rookies to work off of -- they don't want repeats of what happened Kazuhito Futagami and Masanori Fujihara.

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The Hanshin Tigers are not only hoping that Keiichi Yabu will be their Ni-gun pitching coach next season, but they're also hoping he can help them with their scouting in the US as well.

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Keiichi Yabu to retire and take coaching job with Hanshin Tigers

by on Dec.08, 2010 @ 2:45 pm, under NPB
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4:58pm JST

The two sides will likely meet on the 15th.

2:45pm JST

Keiichi Yabu, released by the Rakuten Eagles, is currently attending the Winter Meetings in the US and apparently said that he plans on retiring this year in order to take a Ni-gun pitching coach job with the Hanshin Tigers.

Yabu originally wanted to continue his playing career and even traveled out to Arizona for workouts but apparently changed his mind when his former team offered him a Ni-gun coaching job.

Said Yabu, "I would like to continue playing, but I think that'll go away if I take a job to be a coach."

Nothing has been decided yet, but the Tigers are expected to meet Yabu when he returns from the US.

Career Stats

YR TM G W L Sv CG ShO BF IP H HR BB HBP SO WP BLK R ER ERA WHIP
1994 HAN 26 9 9 0 8 1 743 181.1 174 12 42 2 110 2 1 67 64 3.18 1.19
1995 HAN 27 7 13 0 7 2 813 196.0 185 19 50 10 118 4 1 73 65 2.98 1.20
1996 HAN 30 11 14 0 6 1 834 195.1 204 14 51 11 145 1 1 97 87 4.01 1.31
1997 HAN 29 10 12 0 4 1 768 183.0 172 23 62 10 111 9 0 79 73 3.59 1.28
1998 HAN 24 11 10 0 3 2 692 164.0 159 11 51 8 90 4 2 74 64 3.51 1.28
1999 HAN 28 6 16 0 4 2 737 173.1 175 16 57 11 95 4 0 80 76 3.95 1.34
2000 HAN 25 6 10 0 1 1 638 151.0 162 19 30 4 95 7 0 76 70 4.17 1.27
2001 HAN 17 0 4 0 0 0 250 55.0 55 2 33 5 26 5 0 32 25 4.09 1.60
2002 HAN 20 10 6 0 5 2 532 131.2 118 14 30 6 97 3 0 48 46 3.14 1.12
2003 HAN 23 8 3 0 0 0 405 97.2 97 13 27 2 67 4 0 50 43 3.96 1.27
2004 HAN 19 6 9 0 1 1 480 116.1 108 8 36 6 75 5 0 44 39 3.02 1.24
2005 OAK 40 4 0 1 0 0 262 58.0 64 6 26 8 44 2 0 34 29 4.50 1.55
2008 SF 60 3 6 0 0 0 302 68.0 63 3 32 8 48 5 1 33 27 3.57 1.40
2010 RAK 11 0 0 0 0 0 48 11.0 9 2 6 2 6 0 0 6 6 4.91 1.36
NPB Totals 279 84 106 0 39 13 6940 1655.2 1618 153 475 77 1035 48 5 726 658 3.58 1.26
MLB Totals 100 7 6 1 0 0 564 126.0 127 9 58 16 92 7 1 67 56 4.00 1.47
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10/31/2010: Yabu gives himself to the end of Nov to find job in US

by on Oct.31, 2010 @ 7:50 pm, under MLB
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It seems Keiichi Yabu plans on doing some research in the US for potential leads.

Said Yabu, "I'd like to try to find a place to play before the end of November.  I need to sit down with my agent and figure out what to do.  I still haven't given up.  That's why I'm going to the US.  To gather information [about teams that might be interested."

For Yabu, it will either be a job in the US (minors included) or a return to Japan.  In the meantime, he'll be in Arizona meeting with his agent.  There are also plans for him to meet up with former Hanshin Tiger Jeff Williams to work out.

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