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Pitcher Saito’s spring debut delayed

NAGO, Okinawa Pref. (Kyodo) Yuki Saito, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ super-hyped rookie, will miss his first spring start on Sunday with stress-related stomach pains, the team decided Saturday.

Saito, the heralded right-hander out of Waseda University who has been the biggest story of the spring in Japanese baseball, cut his workout short after throwing just 19 pitches in the bullpen.

He was taken to a hospital in the Okinawa city where he was diagnosed with the pains stemming from exhaustion, although Saito claimed he was not stressed out.

“I’m not overworked,” said Saito, who had been scheduled to pitch against the Central League’s Tokyo Yakult Swallows. “I’m only doing what I can on any given basis.”

Fighters pitching coach Hiroshi Shibakusa said he does not expect Saito out to be long, but did not put a timetable on when his highly anticipated first start would be.