FUKUOKA – Fukuoka Softbank Hawks outfielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who had surgery on his right knee during the off-season, is set to begin the season in the minor league, it was learned on Wednesday.
Matsunaka, 36, played the same day against select players from the independent Shikoku-Kyushu Island League in his final practice game ahead of the season opener but was held hitless in three at-bats.
The three-time RBI champion has played in seven spring exhibition games with the top team, but was batting just .111 with no homers and no runs batted in.
“Every day is a struggle to do my utmost. I just have to believe that my form will improve moving forward,” said Matsunaka.
Matsunaka, who has also had trouble running the base paths since his surgery, worked separately from the team in spring training.
Ohka released KYODO Right-hander Tomokazu Ohka, who last week reached an agreement to play for the Quintana Roo Tigers of the Mexican League after leaving the Cleveland Indians as a free agent, has been released, U.S. baseball sources said Tuesday.
According to the sources, rules stipulate that each team in the Mexican League can only have up to six foreign players on its roster.
Ohka, who turns 34, on Thursday, agreed to a contract with Quintana last Tuesday but was apparently bumped off the team due to the restriction after the club later acquired an American player from the Oakland Athletics.
He has no definitive plans as of yet. Ohka had already appeared in two exhibition games since signing with Quintana.