Yasuyuki Kataoka, who has joined the Yomiuri Giants in a free-agent deal from the Seibu Lions, said Monday he hopes to steal enough bases to put the two-time defending Central League champions in contention for a Japan Series champion in 2014.
“If I can put myself in the race for the stolen-bases title, I can contribute to helping us win the Japan Series,” the 30-year-old Kataoka, who had stolen-bases titles from 2007-2010 in the Pacific League, said at a press conference.
“I want to keep a frame of mind in which I am aggressively aiming for the next base.”
Kataoka has signed a two-year deal worth ¥350 million. He was plagued by injuries the past three years and was also sidelined three months this season. However, he played well at second base when healthy this year, posting a .290 batting average and stealing nine bases in 10 attempts.
One of the main objectives for Giants manager Tatsunori Hara this winter is finding a regular second baseman, a position for which the team expects Kataoka will be well suited.
“His very aggressive playing style is something we were looking for,” Hara said.
Kataoka will don No. 8, the same number Hara wore as a player. “I was worried if I should be permitted to wear this number,” said Kataoka. “Now, I want to do my best to make No. 8 my number.”
Yomiuri Giants rookie right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano re-signed Monday for an annual salary of ¥70 million, up ¥55 million from his first year as a pro.
The 24-year-old Sugano matched a team high with 13 wins (six losses).
“From my second year, I was told that I should work hard to become the heart (of the starting rotation),” said Sugano, whose uncle is Giants skipper Tatsunori Hara. “I feel more determined than ever.”
Sugano took off a year in 2012 after he was selected in the first round of the baseball draft by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, refusing to join the Pacific League club because of his insistence on playing for the Giants.
“Once again, I want to polish my fastball, which is fundamental to my pitching. My goal is to pitch 200 innings,” said Sugano, who threw 176 innings in his rookie season.
Giants lefty ace Tetsuya Utsumi, who went 13-6 this year, re-signed the same day and will take home ¥400 million, the same amount he earned in 2013. Next year will be the second season of a four-year contract.
“The most I’ve ever won in a season is 18 games (in 2011). I’d like to shoot for that number next year,” said Utsumi, who posted the most wins in the Central League in 2011 and 2012.