The Yomiuri Giants have ended the interleague season and are eager to return to extending their dominance of the Central League.
Pitcher Marc Kroon, meanwhile, just wants to lend a helping hand.
The Giants’ regular closer, Kroon has been sidelined since tearing a tendon in his non-pitching hand during the ninth inning of a 3-2 victory over the Hokkaido Ham Fighters on June 6.
The right-handed Kroon dealt with the injury for more than a week before having surgery.
Now he’s eager to get back on the field to help Giants in their quest for a third straight CL pennant.
“Right now it’s getting better,” Kroon said. “I had surgery, it was about an hour long, and they fixed what they had to fix,” Kroon said.
“The doctors say 4-5 weeks, but hopefully I can get back a little faster.”
Kroon was injured trying to tag Makoto Kaneko, who found himself caught between second and third, after leading off the inning with a walk and advancing to second on a sacrifice bunt.
“It was a situation where it was the ninth inning after getting a comebacker,” Kroon said. “I was able to cut him down. It was a fast-paced play. Before I knew it, I was actually too close to throw the ball. What happened was when I went to touch him, he pivoted to go back to third and our legs got tangled up and that’s when I fell on my hand.”
In obvious pain, Kroon was attended to by Giants trainers on the field and in the dugout for several minutes after the injury before returning to record the final out of the game.
“They didn’t want me to come back out,” Kroon said. “I kind of just grabbed my glove. If you notice when I was out there warming up, there were no coaches or anything out there because I just ran out there. But I’m a competitor, two outs in the ninth inning, I wanted the save and wanted the team to win.”
Kroon has appeared in 22 games for the Kyojin this season, recording 11 saves. He set the Giants single-season saves record with 41 last year, his first with the Giants.
Reliever Daisuke Ochi has taken up the mantle in Kroon’s absence and has done an admirable job. Ochi has appeared in 32 games for the Giants this season with seven saves.
The 26-year-old went more than an inning in each of the last two games, earning saves in both. Meanwhile Kroon, while supportive of Ochi, is itching to get back out on the field.
“It’s tough,” Kroon said. “I missed 22 days with my right finger. It’s tougher to sit at home and watch the ninth inning than it is to actually pitch. It sucks. I want to be out there. (Daisuke) Ochi’s doing a great job right now, holding it down for me, but it’s tough to watch.
“You want to win, but me being a competitor, you want a save. So when there’s not a save chance you feel a little bit better and when there’s a save chance I feel like I let the team down because I’m not there. But it’s part of the game, it’s part of what happens as an athlete. I just gotta take care of it and get back on the field.”