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Rakuten Eagles News and Notes: February 15, 2013

by on Feb.15, 2013 @ 11:50 pm, under NPB
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Ichi-gun team traveled to Nago, Okinawa.

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The Eagles have seventeen pitchers and nineteen position players at Ichi-gun camp right now.  More than ten of these players will have to be cut before the start of the regular season.

Source: Daily Sports 2/15/2013

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Takashi Saito is scheduled to toss about forty pitches during batting practice on Sunday.

Source: Sanspo 2/15/2013

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Wataru Karashima and Yoshinao Kamata were late to the Kumejima camp closing statements ceremony by more than five minutes on Thursday.  Senichi Hoshino was not happy and rounded up the pitching staff for a last minute meeting.  He fined Shinichiro Koyama 100,000 yen for failing to keep everyone together.

Source: Sponichi 2/15/2013

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6th round draft pick Hirohito Shimai was called up to Ichi-gun camp today and traveled with the team to Nago, Okinawa.

Source: Sponichi 2/15/2013

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The Eagles announced that they hired Mika Someya to be a full-time coach at their softball school.

Source: official announcement

Rakuten Eagles News and Notes: February 14, 2013

by on Feb.14, 2013 @ 11:31 pm, under NPB
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Bullpen Sessions / Batting Practice

Today

  • Takashi Saito: bullpen, forty-five pitches
  • 1st round draft pick Yudai Mori: bullpen, twenty-six pitches to a standing catcher and thirty-four pitches to a half-bent catcher, third session since the start of camp

Source: Sanspo 2/14/2013, Sanspo 2/14/2013

Wednesday

  • Masahiro Tanaka: bullpen, forty pitches

Source: Sports Hochi 2/14/2013

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The Ichi-gun group closed out their camp in Kumejima, Okinawa today.  They will now head to Kin, Okinawa.

Source: Nikkan Sports 2/14/2013

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Valentine's Day: Takahiro Shiomi led all players with seventy-two chocolates.  Motohiro Shima was in second with seventy and Teppei in third with sixty-five.

Source: Sanspo 2/14/2013

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Takashi Saito is scheduled to throw around forty pitches during batting practice on the 17th.

Saito celebrated his forty-third birthday today.

Source: Sanspo 12/14/2013

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Takumi Miyoshi was called up to Ichi-gun camp on the 11th.  He will continue to remain with the Ichi-gun group as camp moves to Kin, Okinawa on Friday.

Source: Nikkan Sports 2/14/2013

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Masahiro Tanaka made an adjustment to his splitter (how he grips the ball) during his bullpen on Wednesday.  Tadashi Ishimine caught the session and later said to reporters, "I have never seen movement like that [from Tanaka].  It looked like the pitch would diving in toward right-handed hitters."

Source: Sports Hochi 2/14/2013, Sponichi 2/14/2013, Nikkan Sports 2/14/2013, Sanspo 2/14/2013

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2nd round draft pick Takahiro Norimoto has not allowed a run in two intra-squad games (four innings, three hits).

Source: Sports Hochi 2/14/2013

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Former Rakuten Eagle Masato Nakamura wanted to continue playing and was also looking into the KBO, but did not receive any offers.  He has decided to retire and plans to open a restaurant/bar.

Source: Daily Sports 2/14/2013

Rakuten Eagles hold press conference for Takashi Saito

by on Jan.08, 2013 @ 9:14 pm, under NPB
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The Rakuten Eagles held a press conference for Takashi Saito at Kleenex Stadium today.  Source: official announcementSanspo 1/8/2013

Home and road replica uniforms and a t-shirt are now available for pre-order from the official team store.

The Eagles are also thinking about creating a special corner at Kleenex Stadium that contains Saito memorabilia (like photos) going back to his high school (Tohoku) and university (Tohoku Fukushi) years.  Source: Sponichi 1/8/2013

Sanspo has posted portions of his press conference:

What made you pick the Eagles?

I got excited when the president of the team said things like, "Let us change baseball, the baseball world, from Tohoku."

You are returning to your roots.

There are some things that make this emotional.  In following the career path I have gone done, I never would have thought it would lead me here.

Japanese baseball changed while you were in the US.

The rules, the baseballs, Inter-league play.  There have been big changes.  It feels like Urashima Taro (similar to a Rip Van Winkle character).  It may be necessary for me to make even more adjustments than when I was in the US.

What are you goals for this season?

I would like to help the team win.  I want to take things day by day.

What are your thoughts about being a member of a team that plays in an area that was hit by a natural disaster?

People want to see us win.  If winning can help excite the Tohoku Region...  I also want to do what I can off the field.

Source: Sanspo 1/8/2013

A more complete version (in Japanese) of what was said during the press conference can be found by following the "official announcement" link above.

Rakuten Eagles announce Takashi Saito signing

by on Dec.29, 2012 @ 2:40 pm, under NPB
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The Rakuten Eagles officially announced that they signed Takashi Saito to a contract for the 2013 season and assigned him the number forty-four.  According to a number of reports, the two sides agreed to a one-year deal worth thirty million yen plus incentives.

Source: official announcement, Nikkan Sports 12/29/2012, Daily Sports 12/29/2012, Sponichi 12/29/2012

Rakuten Eagles are finalizing a deal with Takashi Saito

by on Dec.28, 2012 @ 4:00 pm, under NPB
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According to Sponichi, the Rakuten Eagles in the middle of finalizing a deal with forty-year-old Takashi Saito.  An announcement could be made as early Saturday.  The two sides are said to be working on a one-year deal worth about thirty million yen.  Incentives could push the total value of the contract to 100 million yen.  He could also be assigned the number forty-four.

Source: Sponichi 12/28/2012

"It is not official yet, so I cannot really say much," said team president Yozo Tachibana.  "The truth is that we received many requests from fans to sign [Saito].  We respect him for everything he did for people [after the Tohoku earthquake].  It would be great if he can pitch well and become a symbol of recovery for Tohoku and Sendai."

Souce: Nikkan Sports 12/28/2012

12/5/2012: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Hideki Matsui, Hiroyuki Nakajima

by on Dec.05, 2012 @ 4:56 pm, under MLB
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Hyun-Jin Ryu could end up pitching in Japan, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez.  A snip:

"Japan is a very viable option for him," said Scott Boras, who disputed the notion that his client doesn't have any leverage in his negotiations with the Dodgers.

... Boras and the Dodgers appear to be far apart in how they think Ryu should be compensated.

... Boras wants Ryu to be paid comparably to a No. 3 major league starter, similar to how Daisuke Matsuzaka was when he signed with the Boston Red Sox before the 2007 season.

And from a separate Los Angeles Times' article by Hernandez:

The Dodgers offered a long-term contract to South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin on Tuesday that was promptly rejected, General Manager Ned Colletti said.

... Boras, said his client should be compensated like a major league No. 3 starter. So, presumably, he’s looking for something in the $50-million range.

... But the idea of Ryu moving to Japan appears far fetched.

It's uncertain exactly how such a move would be made. A South Korean player has never moved to Japan before becoming a free agent. Ryu is under the Eagles' control for two more seasons.

... There is no posting system between the Japanese and South Korean leagues.  Theoretically, a Japanese team interested in Ryu could pay the Eagles for his rights. But it's doubtful a Japanese club would pay anything close to $25.7 million if Ryu only wants a one-year contract. In that case, the Eagles would probably hold on to Ryu for another season and post him again next year.

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The San Francisco Giants still have interested in Ichiro Suzuki.  From SFGate.com:

Bochy on Ichiro Suzuki: "He is a guy that we discussed last season, and of course he's been in our discussions at times this" offseason.

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The Houston Astros' interest in Hideki Matsui, from the Houston Chronicle's Brian T. Smith:

Porter and Luhnow are equally aware Houston needs a reliable bat. But the Astros' GM appeared to shoot down any real interest in Matsui after Porter brought Godzilla to the surface.

"It's one of many names," Luhnow said. "There's nothing specific that's been done on that."

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The latest on Kyuji Fujikawa, from MLB.com's Carrie Muskat:

The Cubs are expected to complete the agreement with Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa on Friday. The right-hander has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $9.5 million contract, which includes vesting options valued at $5.5 million or $6 million, to be determined by games finished.

The deal has not been finalized, but Cubs manager Dale Sveum has watched video of Fujikawa and likes what he's seen.

"He can fill any kind of role, he has that kind of stuff," Sveum said. "Those numbers and that ability to do things with three, four different pitches just doesn't come around very often. He can set up, he can close. He can do anything he wants with a baseball. He has four quality pitches and can add and subtract with his fastball. He can pitch in the seventh, pitch in the eighth, pitch in the ninth. He can get left-handers out and pitch in any type of situation." 

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The Oakland A's met with Hiroyuki Nakajima on Tuesday, according to Ken Rosenthal.

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Takashi Saito would like to play in the Majors next season.  Japan has not been ruled out.  Source: Nikkan Sports 12/5/2012

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The latest on Tsuyoshi Wada, from the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly:

On the health front, Showalter said he believes outfielder Nolan Reimold (neck surgery), Brian Matusz (hernia surgery) and Tsuyoshi Wada (Tommy John surgery) are all recuperating well. Showalter said he believes Wada, who had surgery May 11, could be available before most originally expected, though he wouldn't predict a date. It usually takes a year or more to recover from the surgery.

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The Dodgers will hand out Hideo Nomo bobbleheads will be handed out to the first 50,000 fans on August 10.  Source: MLB.com 12/4/2012

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UPDATE 12/6 @ 12:18am -

The Milwaukee Brewers may be interested in Hideki Okajima.  Source: Sponichi 12/5/2012

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Japan is not an option for Hisanori Takahashi in 2013.  Source: Sponichi 12/5/2012

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The Baltimore Orioles could be interested in Kensuke Tanaka (as a utility infielder).  Source: Sponichi 12/5/2012

10/30/2012: Hiroki Kuroda, Hisashi Iwakuma

by on Oct.30, 2012 @ 11:45 pm, under MLB
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Ichiro Suzuki, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Koji Uehara, and Takashi Saito became free agents on Monday.  They will be allowed to negotiate with other teams beginning on Saturday.  Source: MLB.com FA List

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Sanspo notes that Boston Globe thinks there is a chance the Yankees will sign Kuroda to a one-year deal with some interest from the Dodgers as well.  Sanspo also notes that CBS is reporting Kuroda does not want a multi-year deal because he wants to keep his options open; the Red Sox are a possibility.  Source: Sanspo 10/30/2012

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Hisashi Iwakuma is not yet a free agent because there is a clause in his contract that gives the Seattle Mariners until Saturday to sign him.

From the Seattle Times' Larry Stone:

Some of you may wonder why pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma isn't on this list. Very good question. When he signed a one-year deal as a free agent from Japan in January, Iwakuma's contract called for him to be granted his release if he can't reach agreement with the Mariners by Saturday (the same day that free agents can sign with other teams). If Iwakuma doesn't sign by Saturday, he thus would become a free agent, but technically he is not one right now. Apparently, Iwakuma could actually delay his request for release beyond Saturday, but that's considered unlikley. In essense, the stipulation makes Iwakuma no different than any other free agent: His team has a six-day exclusive window to re-sign him, then he becomes free to negotiate with other teams.

10/25/2012: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Munenori Kawasaki, Takashi Saito

by on Oct.25, 2012 @ 9:30 am, under MLB
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Sponichi is carrying the following quote from Red Sox GM Ben Cherrington regarding Daisuke Matsuzaka:

Daisuke will become a free agent.  I have not spoke to Scott Boras about him yet.  I am sure he will talk to other teams.

Source: Sponichi 10/25/2012

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Takashi Saito was designated for assignment on the 21st and is set to become a free agent.  Source: NBC Sports 10/21/2012

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The Seattle Mariners released Munenori Kawasaki on Wednesday.  From The Seattle Times' Geoff Baker:

These moves will surprise no one, but were finally made official today when the Mariners declined the 2013 option on Miguel Olivo and also released Munenori Kawasaki from his contract with the team.

... As for Kawasaki, he had a lot of fun here in his first and likely only big league season. An upgrade in that area is clearly needed. We wish him well, as he certainly wasn't a pain to have around and kept things light.

And from MLB.com's Greg Johns:

... Additionally, the Mariners said they were releasing utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki from his Major League contract, which makes him a free agent able to sign with any other team as well.

... Kawasaki, 31, signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners last offseason and hit .192 in 104 at-bats in 61 games as a rookie. Kawasaki, an eight-time All-Star in Japan, was the Mariners' nominee for the MLB Alumni Association's Heart and Hustle Award.

Kawasaki would like to return to the Majors next season.  Source: Sponichi 10/25/2012

10/13/2012: Ichiro Suzuki, MLB seeking changes to posting system

by on Oct.13, 2012 @ 2:05 pm, under MLB
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Games from October 12:

New York Yankees 3 - Baltimore Orioles 1
Ichiro Suzuki (NYY) started in left and batted second.  He went 1-for-3: ground out to second, ground out to second, RBI double to center, walk.  Ichiro shifted from left to right in the top of the 8th. [Nikkan Sports, Nikkan Sports, Daily SportsDaily Sports, Sponichi]

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Takashi Saito returned to Japan on Sunday and said to reporters, "This will be like any other off-season.  I will wait for an offer and then decide what to do. ... When I think about my time in the US, I do not feel completely satisfied."

He continued, "The gap between when I was getting outs and when I was getting hits was too big. ... Will I get a good contract, or not.  It may be a difficult decision to make and it might end up being a tough year until I decide. ... I cannot just maintain [my current condition].  I need to try some things out, like increase muscle strength."

When asked if he might return to play in Japan, he replied, "I can not answer that definitively right now."

Source: Nikkan Sports 10/12/2012, Nikkan Sports 10/13/2012, Sponichi 10/13/2012

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According to Sanspo, the MLB is seeking changes to the posting system rules (United States - Japanese Player Contract Agreement).  The NPB is expected to consider the request and could agree to make changes before the expiration date on December 15.  One of the things on the chopping block is the rule that gives one team exclusive negotiating rights; this could be modified to grant multiple teams the right to negotiate with a player.

It should be noted that not everyone in the NPB feels the agreement needs to be changed.

Source: Sanspo 10/13/2012

10/5/2012: Hiroki Kuroda, Ichiro Suzuki, Norichika Aoki

by on Oct.05, 2012 @ 2:28 pm, under MLB
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Takashi Saito (42) on 2013: "Retirement is not a word that comes to mind right now.  Honestly, I have no idea."  Source: Sponichi 10/5/2012

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Hisanori Takahashi on next season: "When I come to the US, I have trouble sleeping at night worrying about things.  I cannot return that easily.  I want to keep playing over here until I am satisfied."  Source: Sponichi 10/5/2012

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Ron Roenicke on Norichika Aoki (MIL) playing in the WBC: "Next year will be an important year for [Aoki].  It will be very important for him to attend spring training with the rest of his teammates. ... He may lose something by being away from the team.  I am sure he will prepare himself for the start of the season, but that is another issue."  Source: Sponichi 10/5/2012

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Munenori Kawasaki on next season: "I would like to play over here again.  This is just the start."  Source: Sponichi 10/5/2012

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The Yu Darvish (TEX) game on April 9 was the highest rated Rangers game on FOX Sports Southwest this season, via Rangers' press release:

During the 2012 season, the Rangers logged nine of their all-time Top 10 ratings on FOX Sports Southwest, led by a record 10.7 on April 9 for Yu Darvish's major league debut against the Seattle Mariners.

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Hiroki Kuroda media interview after Wednesday's game, via Sanspo:

This is your first champagne celebration since 2009.

It does not matter how many times I do this.  There were a lot more bottles of champagne that I thought.

They got on the board first, but you hung on.

There were not too many pitches I was happy with.  But the offense has been clicking, so I felt if I kept the team in the game, we might have another game like yesterday.

What about pitching under the pressure of the AL East title?

It did not feel that much different than other starts.  Once you get on the mound, you have to do the same kind of stuff.

How is the team atmosphere?

This is strong team and there are a lot of players here with championship experience, so it a different kind of atmosphere.

You struggled a little in September...

I am human so there will be good and bad times.  It is not just about chasing after the good times, but do your best with what you currently have.

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Ichiro Suzuki media interview after Wednesday's game, via Sanspo:

What did you think of the champagne celebration with the Yankees?

It was not as spectacular as I ... thought it was going to be.

The team managed to win the AL East.

Maybe we grew stronger without even knowing.  I do not know if that is what happens, but that is what I think happened.

This is your first playoff in eleven years.

Jeter said something about today being the last day of practice games.  Made me think.  Everyone on this team considers winning the division title as the first step.  This moment will become a thing of the past.  I want to look forward and make sure I take strong steps forward.

You arrived here partway through the season and the Yankees won a division title.

I think I would be feeling completely different if this were happening in Seattle.  I feel overly calm within all of this right now.

What did it feel like playing as a Yankee?

This team is always even-keeled.  They do get excited by winning, but there are not many ups and downs.  It is very stable.  Actually, I find this to be something very special.

And via Sponichi:

The champagne celebrations are now over...

I have cooled off now.  The most exciting part is over.  It was not that amazing.  It was not as big as I thought it was going to be.

It was a fierce battle.

Playing in games like this everyday, I think perhaps our strength grew without us even knowing.  I think that is the kind of games we played.

It seemed like you settle in fairly quickly.

I am not quite sure even know, but I came because I wanted to be a piece, no matter how small, they needed.  I feel relieved that we ended up on top of the AL East.

When did you think you were taking things calmly?

In terms of runs, it was after we knew we were going to win.  The manager asked if I wanted to leave the game before my at bat [in the 7th] but I said straight away that I wanted to hit.  And that made me think I was being my usual self.  It was after that that I got a hit so it made me really happy.  I guess it was that moment.

He was also quoted as saying, in a separate Sponichi article:

There is a part of me that is calm at this point.  When I see that part of me, it makes me feel that I have finally become a member of the Yankees.