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Lions’ Makita makes progress with slippery WBC ball


Seibu Lions right-hander Kazuhisa Makita threw two hitless innings Monday as he appears to have adapted his grip to the ball to be used in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

After six days of struggles with the slippery sphere in the bullpen, the submarine right-hander looked polished in a practice game at the Pacific League club’s spring training facility in Miyazaki Prefecture.

“The ball moved better than I expected,” said the 28-year-old Makita, the PL’s rookie of the year in 2011. “I’m on schedule.”

Makita, who will vie for one of 28 spots on Japan’s WBC roster, threw in the bullpen in each of the first six workout days of the spring. He appears to have hit his stride early as the ball seemed to respond differently on the field than it had in the bullpen, where Makita had struggled mightily with it.

On the practice mound, he had found that the more times he handled the ball, the more slippery it got and the more often pitches would get away from him.

But in Monday’s action, Makita appeared to have good command of his pitches and got tremendous break on his running fastball. He worked at a quick pace that seemed to make the batters uncomfortable.

“I think he’s really getting there,” pitching coach Tadashi Sugimoto said. “He was gripping the ball well.”