SAPPORO (Kyodo) Yuki Saito flopped in his first start of the spring on Monday, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ super-hyped rookie giving up nine runs on 13 hits and lasting just three innings.

The Hanshin Tigers pounded Saito for eight hits in the third inning — four of them for extra bases — to score eight runs on their way to a 12-3 rout of the Fighters before a crowd of 30,308 at Sapporo Dome.

The most talked-about player of the spring, Saito left many pitches high in the zone, and the Tigers, who boast one of the most potent lineups in Japanese baseball, took advantage.

“Nothing went well,” Saito said of his rocky start. “Today I realized once again how dangerous professional hitters are. I wish I could overpower hitters with my fastball.”

Tigers right fielder Matt Murton, struggling this spring after a record-breaking 214-hit season in 2010, laced a run-scoring double off the Fighters’ No. 1 draft pick before adding a base hit in the fifth.

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