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Fighters rookie pitcher Otani to start first NPB game on May 23

Kyodo

Pitcher Shohei Otani, who turned down his chance to sign with a major league club out of high school to join the Nippon Ham Fighters, will make his pitching debut on May 23, manager Hideki Kuriyama announced Thursday.

The 19-year-old right-hander, who was heavily scouted by major league clubs, has been playing right field with the first team, where he is batting .308 in 15 games with five doubles. So far he has only pitched in exhibition games and with the Fighters’ Eastern League farm club.

Kuriyama made the announcement after watching Otani pitch against the Seibu Lions in a minor league game on Thursday in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture. The skipper indicated that the hard-throwing rookie will make his debut in an interleague game against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Sapporo Dome.

“I was really happy (to hear the news),” Otani said. “This is what I’ve been striving for. I want to take the mound full of resolve.”

In order to make the farm start, Otani was not on the bench for Wednesday’s game against the Chunichi Dragons in Nagoya and is not expected to be with the club in Yokohama for Friday’s game against the Yokohama BayStars.

Otani allowed five runs on seven hits in five innings and threw 104 pitches in his fourth Eastern League game.

“It’s essential to be able to throw 100 pitches in a game,” Kuriyama said.

Nakahata fined

Yokohama BayStars manager Kiyoshi Nakahata was warned and fined ¥400,000 on Thursday, a day after he had a run-in with an umpire at Yokohama Stadium.

Nakahata, who was fined half that amount on April 17 after making contact with an umpire over a disputed call, bumped into third base umpire Shinji Hashimoto. The BayStars lost the game 7-5 to the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.