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Satozaki times return to perfection

by Kaz Nagatsuka

TOKOROZAWA, Saitama Pref. — Baseball is a sport of repetition. You can easily lose your knack for the game if you don’t swing the bat or throw the ball for a while.

That’s not the case for Tomoya Satozaki.

Satozaki was back on the Chiba Lotte Marines top-team roster right before the postseason, after two months on the farm team due to a back injury.

Satozaki, however, was not rusty at all. Instead he was just phenomenal.

In the Marines’ two postseason victories over the Seibu Lions, Satozaki combined for four hits and four RBIs, and in both games he came up with significant hits that helped rallies for the team.

“You know what, he’s not thinking of anything,” Marines cleanup Saburo Omura said of Satozaki with a big laugh after Chiba’s 5-4 win in Game 2, in which Satozaki went 3-for-3 with a ninth-inning game-tying homer.

“He only has positive things in his head. That’s working for him.”

Omura’s right.

In the bottom of the eighth, Seibu’s Tomoaki Sato kncked over Satozaki at the plate, failing to score on a two-out single by Takumi Kuriyama.

Satozaki tagged out Sato, but he did not get up quickly and appeared to have hurt himself on the play.

But Satozaki, who led off the top of the ninth, smacked the very first pitch by Chikara Onodera, as if nothing had happened to him, into the left-field stands to equal the game at 4 all.

“I hurt my wrist (on the fielding play),” Satozaki said. “I wasn’t sure if I could swing the bat. But it actually worked out for me better because I didn’t swing the bat with too much power.”

Asked if he has become a different player since the 2005 Japan Series-winning season, Satozaki responded “a lot different” in terms of experience.

“Since then I have experienced international games in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and the Olympics (in Beijing in 2008), and played serious games in the Pacific League, where you can’t afford to lose.

“So I’m a totally different player, compared to who I was back then.”

Now that the Marines, the third-seeded team in the PLCS, have qualified from the first stage, they are eyeing their first Japan Series berth in five years by defeating the league champion Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the final stage.

Manager Norifumi Nishimura was pleased that one of his most reliable veterans had returned to the team with perfect timing.

“Shunsuke (Watanabe, who had been demoted to the farm also) and Satozaki must’ve spent pitiful days in the farm,” Nishimura said. “But they worked hard with the right attitude. That’s really paying off for those guys.”