MIYAZAKI – Seattle Mariners outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and Boston Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka are among the five major leaguers who were named to Japan’s final 28-man roster Sunday for the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Akinori Iwamura and Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome are also on the roster that features a wealth of young players, led by 22-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Yu Darvish.
Seibu Lions right-hander Takayuki Kishi, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada, Softbank first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Seibu catcher Toru Hosokawa and Hiroshima Carp first baseman Kenta Kurihara did not make the roster out of 33 players who attended a training camp in Miyazaki.
“We finalized the roster. From here, we will try to establish a strong, winning team,” said Japan manager Tatsunori Hara, who also manages the Yomiuri Giants.
“There are various opinions from the manager, coaches and players on how we play games. I will select the best options for the team.”
Matsunaka had to skip part of the training menu in the just-ended WBC camp with a sore Achilles tendon.
“The outcome was unfortunate but I tried hard. You just have to produce results at whatever position you are given,” Matsunaka said, referring to his return to the Hawks camp.
Matsunaka hit .433 with no homers and two RBIs in eight games as the cleanup hitter in the inaugural WBC in 2006.
Meanwhile, Kishi was nowhere close to the pitcher he was in the Japan Series last November, in which the right-hander pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 4 and threw 5 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in Game 6 on two days’ rest.
Some coaching staff voiced that the 24-year-old Kishi has no other headline-making big game performance in his two-year professional career.
“I couldn’t show my ability at all,” Kishi said. “I learned the importance of physical strength.”
On the final day of the weeklong camp, Fukudome hit a grand slam and Iwamura added a three-run home run as Japan routed Yomiuri 13-1 in an exhibition game called after seven innings due to rain.
Ichiro, batting third in the lineup, went hitless in two at-bats.
The two-time American League batting champion expressed gratitude to fans who packed Sun Marine Stadium to create a game-like atmosphere each day.
“The most important thing was that we trained in front of a huge crowd. I feel right about what each of us is trying to do,” he said.
The team, nicknamed “Samurai Japan,” moves to Osaka for two exhibition games against Australia on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It then plays two more warmup games in Tokyo against Seibu on Saturday and the Giants the following day before taking on China in the tournament’s opener on March 5 at Tokyo Dome.
Pool A also features Olympic champion South Korea and Taiwan. The top two teams in each pool advance to the second round in the United States.
2009 World Baseball Classic
Japan’s final 28-man roster
Pitchers — Takahiro Mahara (Softbank Hawks), Toshiya Sugiuchi (Softbank Hawks), Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham Fighters), Satoshi Komatsu (Orix Buffaloes), Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Eagles), Hisashi Iwakuma (Rakuten Eagles), Hideaki Wakui (Seibu Lions), Shunsuke Watanabe (Lotte Marines), Minoru Iwata (Hanshin Tigers), Kyuji Fujikawa (Hanshin Tigers), Tetsuya Utsumi (Yomiuri Giants), Tetsuya Yamaguchi (Yomiuri Giants), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Boston Red Sox)
Catchers — Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants), Yoshiyuki Ishihara (Hiroshima Carp), Kenji Jojima (Seattle Mariners)
Infielders — Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu Lions), Munenori Kawasaki (Softbank Hawks), Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions), Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Shuichi Murata (Yokohama BayStars), Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Rays)
Outfielders — Atsunori Inaba (Nippon Ham Fighters), Norichika Aoki (Yakult Swallows), Seiichi Uchikawa (Yokohama BayStars), Yoshiyuki Kamei (Yomiuri Giants), Kosuke Fukudome (Chicago Cubs), Ichiro Suzuki (Seattle Mariners)