Fighters rookie Otani throws first bullpen


Highly regarded Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters rookie Shohei Otani threw 35 pitches in his first bullpen session of spring training on Sunday.

The former Hanamaki Higashi High School phenom, who has been practicing both as a pitcher and a position player, is still finding his sea legs, but demonstrated his limber form on the third day of training with the farm team in Okinawa’s Kunigami.

With a phalanx of fans and reporters looking on, the right-hander tested his fastball and curveball, and after turning it up a notch mixed in his slider. He also had another day of fielding practice to show off his defensive skills.

“Overall, not really that good today,” said Otani, who signed as the Fighters’ No. 1 draft pick after previously announcing his desire to pursue a career in the major leagues.

“He had some pitches that got away and some that he left hanging, but he had velocity,” said Fighters catcher Takumi Oshima, who caught for him. “He got up around 140 km per hour.”

The 193-cm Otani, who has inherited the No. 11 uniform from former Fighters ace Yu Darvish, definitely stands out in a crowd.

“It was like catch ball with a little extra spice,” said Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama. “He looked good standing out there.”

“I still have it rough in places, but I want to do what I can and rest when it’s time to rest,” Otani said.

Yang reports to camp


Taiwanese left-hander Yang Yao-hsun ended his brief holdout on Sunday, when he reported to the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks’ camp and signed a deal that will allow him to move to the majors after this season.

The 30-year-old signed a one-year deal that will pay him ¥35 million with additional performance-based incentives. The deal prohibits his signing with another Japanese club next year.

“He will be free next year,” said Shigeru Ishiwata, the Hawks’ director of player personnel and development. “We have a high regard for his dreams.”

Yang, who is on Taiwan’s roster for March’s World Baseball Classic, is 5-5 with a 3.08 ERA in 90⅔ innings with the Hawks since he signed out of his university in Taiwan.

“Although I caused trouble for my team, it feels good to have arrived in Miyazaki,” he said after reporting.

Yang’s younger brother, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Yang Dai-kang, will also play for Taiwan in the WBC.