OSAKA – Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino announced Thursday that his team’s first draft pick last season, 18-year-old pitcher Yuki Matsui, will be in the starting rotation from opening day.
“He’s going to be there, and he’ll be in the front end of the rotation,” Hoshino said.
The decision was made the same day Matsui allowed two hits in five scoreless innings in a 3-0 preseason win over the Orix Buffaloes.
“I was thinking about putting up zeroes in order to make a case for myself,” said Matsui, who got off to an inauspicious start when leadoff man Esteban German doubled in the bottom of the first at Kyocera Dome.
The double was the first extra-base hit Matsui has allowed this spring, but he stranded the Orix speedster by taking care of the Buffaloes who came next.
Matsui later got into a jam with two outs in the fifth.
The lefty hit a batter, surrendered a single and then walked the bases loaded before getting German to ground a fastball to second.
Matsui has thrown 12 scoreless innings over three preseason games. He is the first Rakuten player to go from high school to the starting rotation since current New York Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka did it in 2007.
In 2012, Matsui set a record at the national high school championships at Koshien Stadium, where he struck out 22 batters in one game.
Five teams named the 174-cm Matsui as their top pick last autumn, but the Eagles won exclusive rights to negotiate with him in a draft-day lottery.