Lions’ Kikuchi named Opening Day starter


Lions lefty Yusei Kikuchi will start on Opening Day, Seibu manager Norio Tanabe said Friday.

If everything goes according to plan, Kikuchi will make his first Opening Day start on March 25 against the Orix Buffaloes at Seibu Prince Dome.

“I want to prepare thoroughly so I can give the team momentum with my pitching,” the 24-year-old Kikuchi said after the Lions wrapped up their camp in southern Miyazaki Prefecture.

Kikuchi is 7-3 against the Buffaloes in his career and is unbeaten against Orix at the Lions’ home dome. He’s 24-26 against the rest of Nippon Professional Baseball.

“It’s based on his past record and the matchup,” Tanabe said. “He’s the pitcher we need for this. He must think like he is carrying us. I’d like him to be self aware and responsible.”

Kikuchi was told of the decision on Tuesday.

“That was a surprise. Who would have thought it would be me?,” Kikuchi said. “I can’t be riding on the veterans’ coattails forever. I have a desire to get results that will pull us forward.”