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Japanese pitching trio impresses

Kyodo

Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma are hoping to set the bar for the caliber of starting pitching to be expected as Japan takes aim to defend its title at the second World Baseball Classic next month.

Boston Red Sox right-hander Matsuzaka, Darvish from the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and Iwakuma of the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, each put in solid performances Wednesday as they faced live hitters in a simulated game at Sun Marine Stadium in Miyazaki.

Matsuzaka yielded a home run to Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Norichika Aoki but struck out six of the 14 batters he faced.

“I saw clearly the points I must work on,” said Matsuzaka, who tested all of the pitches in his arsenal. “From now on, I have to work on resolving these matters in practice.”

Darvish allowed one hit while striking out two, throwing 31 pitches against nine batters, while Iwakuma, the winningest pitcher in Japan last season with 21 victories, gave up two hits with one strikeout facing 10 batters.

“I should be fine as long as I work usual. I want to make sure that I don’t get injured,” Darvish said.

Iwakuma said he tried to throw all of his pitches while working on improving his mechanics.

“I wanted to check on many things and I am glad I was able to do that,” Iwakuma said.

Bidding to fill the closer’s role vacated by the withdrawal of Takashi Saito, Hanshin Tigers right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa struck out three in a row while Softbank Hawks right-hander Takahiro Mahara allowed a run after yielding consecutive hits on his first two pitches.

There will be a day off on Thursday in the weeklong camp which got started on Monday.