Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters right-hander Yu Darvish took to the bullpen with a power-laden display of pitching Sunday as spring training got under way for all 12 clubs in Japanese baseball ahead of the 2009 season.

Darvish, who is a top candidate starter to represent Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic in March, got down to serious business throwing 125 pitches.

“I feel like I am already at the level of about halfway through spring training or almost where I would be at the end,” said Darvish, who arrived at the site on Jan. 28 ahead of his team. “I am glad that I could throw this many pitches.”

The Seibu Lions, Yomiuri Giants and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks each kicked off training in Miyazaki Prefecture.

Seibu, led by second-year manager Hisanobu Watanabe, will aim to win its second straight Japan Series title.

Yomiuri manager Tatsunori Hara, meanwhile, takes on the extra burden of managing Japan as it aims to defend the WBC crown while shooting for his team’s third consecutive Central League title.

Softbank rookie manager Koji Akiyama will face his first test at the helm this year after replacing Sadaharu Oh, who stepped down for health reasons at the end of last season.

Hanshin Tigers first baseman Takahiro Arai took batting practice indoors for about one hour as his teammates took to the field in Ginoza, Okinawa Prefecture, under rookie manager Akinobu Mayumi.

On the Okinawan island of Ishigaki, Chiba Lotte Marines second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, who is back in Japan after playing four seasons in the major leagues, got started with some weight training before joining the team for practice.

Preseason exhibition games get under way on Feb. 28, ahead of the regular season, which will start on April 3 in both the Central and Pacific Leagues.

The second edition of the World baseball Classic will begin on March 5.

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