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Carp set to make splash in All-Star Series

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Get ready to see red during the 2014 NPB All-Star Series later this month, because the Hiroshima Carp’s fans might be out in full force.

That’s because their team is the most well-represented club on the final All-Star rosters, released Thursday, for the series, which is scheduled to take place July 18 at Seibu Dome and July 19 at Koshien Stadium.

Led by ace pitcher Kenta Maeda, the Carp have an NPB-high eight players on the CL roster. The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Orix Buffaloes each have seven to lead the PL squad. The rosters were chosen by fan voting, player voting and filled out by manager selections.

Ailing Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino will lead the PL squad, while the Yomiuri Giants’ Tatsunori Hara will skipper the CL team. Hoshino has been sidelined with ossification of thoracic yellow ligament since May and is currently recovering from surgery on his back. As manager of the previous year’s PL champion, Hoshino was originally scheduled to manage the Pa League team but pulled out due to his health issues. Rakuten interim manager Yoshinori Sato was then penciled in to do the job. He was replaced in the Eagles dugout by Hiromoto Okubo on Wednesday, leading the PL to turn back to Hoshino, who will take the reins.

The entire Carp contingent was voted in by the fans, and the team has All-Stars at nearly every spot on the field. Along with Maeda, reliever Ryuji Ichioka and closer Kam Mikolio were voted onto the team. First baseman Kila Ka’aihue is also on the roster, as is dynamic second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, third baseman Shota Dobayashi and outfielders Brad Eldred, the NPB home run leader with 26, and Yoshihiro Maru.

Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe was selected to his 11th All-Star Series by fans and players, while Chunichi Dragons player-manager Motonobu Tanishige was a manager’s selection and is an All-Star for the 12th time.

The only other positions where the fans didn’t vote in a Carp player was at shortstop, the Hanshin Tigers’ Takashi Toritani won the vote, and the third outfielder’s spot, which went to the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien.

Outside the fan voting, Giants pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano and Yokohama BayStars hurler Shoichi Ino, tied for the most wins in the CL with eight, both made the team, as did 7-0 Chunichi Dragons pitcher Daisuke Yamai. Hanshin Tigers outfielder Matt Murton and Giants third baseman Shuichi Murata were among the other selections.

Yamai is one of 11 CL players who are All-Stars for the first time.

In the PL, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters two-way star Shohei Otani is an All-Star as a pitcher for the first time after making the team as an outfielder last season.

Orix’s Yuki Nishi, Japan’s only 10-game winner so far this season, was the top vote-getter among PL pitchers. His teammate Chihiro Kaneko, who leads Japan with a 1.76 ERA, made the team (as the players’ selection) for the second time, while Rakuten pitcher Takahiro Norimoto was a manager’s pick and is an All-Star for the first time.

The PL outfield will be a Fighters reunion of sorts, with the Buffaloes’ Yoshio Itoi joining his former Nippon Ham teammates Sho Nakata and Daikan Yoh as the fan selections. Softbank duo Yuya Hasegawa and Yuki Yanigita, a first time All-Star, are also in the outfield.

The Eagles’ Motohiro Shima got the nod at catcher from the fans, who also chose the Seibu Lions’ Takeya Nakamura and Hideto Asamura at first and second base respectively, the Hawks’ Nobuhiro Matsuda and Kenta Imamiya at third base and shortstop, and Orix’s Wily Mo Pena as the designated hitter.

Seven members of the PL team are first-time selections.