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Takahashi adjusting to new spot in order

by Jason Coskrey

It’s easy for young ballplayers to take their youth for granted and envision themselves being on top of the world forever.

Yoshinobu Takahashi has been through enough in his injury-plagued career to realize nothing lasts forever. Which might just be the driving force behind the Yomiuri Giants star’s resurgence.

After playing just one game during an injury-plagued 2009 season, Takahashi is finally beginning to resemble his old self at the plate again for the first-place Kyojin.

“People say that when you’re hitting well,” Takahashi said. “I don’t know. I just hope I can keep playing well.”

Mostly recovered from last season’s back troubles, Takahashi is hitting .301 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs through 48 games, looking more comfortable at the plate with each appearance.

“I haven’t really changed anything, which is good,” Takahashi said. “My back problem will not become better all of a sudden. But I don’t have anything to worry about right now. That’s a good thing.”

Proving an old dog can learn new tricks, the 35-year-old has recently been given the challenge of batting second in the Yomiuri lineup, a first for the veteran in his 13th season.

“The manager and coaches haven’t really told me why,” Takahashi said. “They’ve watched me play since Opening Day and they’ve decided to do it. They have their reasons for batting me No. 2.”

The second spot in the lineup is a strange place to find a player of Takahashi’s pedigree. He’s a .299 career hitter with 271 homers, more suited to driving in runners than trying to bunt them over.

Takahashi made the move, no doubt realizing how fleeting playing time can be on a roster as loaded as Yomiuri’s.

He faced a similar situation in 2007, when he hit leadoff for the Giants. He wasn’t the prototypical player for his spot in the order then either, but hit .308 with 35 homers and 88 RBIs.

Takahashi opened this season in the eight-hole and has mostly hovered around the lower half of the lineup.

He looked set to remain there before the Giants’ offense stalled during last week’s series against the Chiba Lotte Marines.

A sputtering attack at the plate and a need to get something more out of the second spot, where Tetsuya Matsumoto thrived before being lost to injury, prompted manager Tatsunori Hara to shake things up a bit last Friday.

So far, Takahashi has paid major dividends in his new role, batting .353 with three home runs and seven RBIs in four games.

His future may remain uncertain, but happy just to be back on the field regularly, the Giants star is willing to try almost anything.

“I’m a No. 2 batter now,” Takahashi said. “I know there is a certain role for the No. 2 batter. But my mentality is not the same as an ordinary No. 2 hitter. I’m not good at bunting. So when I play, I don’t really care that I’m the No. 2 batter.”

Yakult inks Whitesell KYODO The Tokyo Yakult Swallows said on Monday they have acquired infielder Josh Whitesell from the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A Syracuse club.

Whitesell, 28, is guaranteed ¥30 million on a contract that will last throughout the 2010 season.