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Tigers rookie Fujinami makes history but loses debut

Kyodo

Hanshin Tigers right-hander Shintaro Fujinami made his first pro start on Sunday just three games into the season, setting a record for rookies drafted out of high school.

Fujinami, the Tigers’ first-round draft pick last autumn out of Osaka Toin High School, allowed two runs in six innings and suffered the loss in a 2-0 defeat to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Jingu Stadium.

The 18-year-old, whose fastball reached 151-kph on the radar gun, gave up three hits while walking four and striking out seven.

“As for my pitching, it wasn’t bad,” Fujinami said. “Things like my tempo and rhythm — things that are peculiar to each pitcher — I was able to figure some of it out today.”

Since the draft began following the 1965 season, the earliest starting debut for a pitcher straight out of high school was four games, set by Daisuke Matsuzaka with the Seibu Lions in 1999 and equaled by his teammate Hideaki Wakui in 2005.

Last year, Fujinami helped Osaka Toin to consecutive championships at Koshien Stadium in the spring invitational and the national summer tournament.

Fujinami was tagged for a solo homer in the sixth by Yuhei Takai, who like Fujinami began his career as a pitcher taken in the first round out of high school.

The home run was the second of Takai’s career and his first since he became an outfielder in 2010.

Yakult scored an unearned run in the first, and that was all the Swallows would need as their pitchers shut Hanshin out for the second straight day.

Lefty Ryosuke Yagi threw seven scoreless innings for his first pro victory. Tetsuya Yamamoto and Tony Barnette finished up, with Barnette earning his second save.

Tigers shortstop Takashi Toritani ran his consecutive games streak to 1,181, now the fifth longest streak in Nippon Professional Baseball history.

He entered the game tied with Katsumi Hirosawa. Toritani is 69 games shy of Japan’s third longest streak, Hideki Matsui’s 1,250-game run. The record is owned by Hall of Famer Sachio Kinugasa with 2,215.