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Samurai Japan gets back to work after hammering


A day after the first of two games being used to help determine the makeup of the national baseball team resulted in a 7-0 drubbing, manager Koji Yamamoto’s squad tried to get the whipping out of its system in practice on Monday.

“Yesterday, we had one of those games that you just have to put behind you,” said Fukuoka Softbank Hawks outfielder Seiichi Uchikawa, one of 33 players vying for 28 spots on Yamamoto’s final roster for March’s 2013 World Baseball Classic.

“You reflect on what happened and go out and do the things that need doing. Now the thing is to carry that over to real games,” he added about the whitewash suffered at the hands of the Hiroshima Carp.

Monday’s scheduled practice game against the Seibu Lions was canceled on account of rain. The official 28-man roster, which was to be announced after that game, will instead be finalized following an intrasquad game on Wednesday.

Camp will wrap up on Thursday, and Japan will play exhibition games against Australia at Kyocera Dome on Saturday and Sunday. Japan plays its first game of the tournament against Brazil on March 2 at Fukuoka Dome.

“Today was a day for everyone to consider yesterday’s game,” Yamamoto said. “I think we’ve done that.”

Uchikawa talked of adjusting to the tournament ball, and he was just one voice in the chorus. Head coach Masataka Nashida said that not only are the WBC balls different from their Nippon Professional Baseball counterparts, they also vary in quality from one ball to the next.

“We’re still not used to it, yet,” Nashida said. “They’re slippery. But on top of that, the practice balls we have are not all the same size. Some are bigger. Some are smaller. Some have wider seams, some have narrower seams. The quality control seems to be a little loose.”

Fielding coach Koichi Ogata observed that the tournament ball seems to fly better than the lifeless, tacky balls NPB currently uses, but that the slick cover has made throwing an adventure.

“When you are about to release the ball, you will sometimes feel the ball slipping,” Ogata said. “When that happens, there seems to be a tendency to want to squeeze it to regain control and that doesn’t work. We’re adjusting.”

Lions ace pitcher Hideaki Wakui said he is now able to command his slider with the different ball, but that his curve was still far from game-ready.

“My fingers seem to be catching when I throw my curve,” said the right-hander who is slated to throw an inning on Wednesday. Although, he said, this is not that unusual for this time of the season.

That may be one of the few normal things about this WBC spring. Most players got an early start to their spring training, and Uchikawa, who had one of Japan’s three hits in Sunday’s loss to the Carp, said the intensity of the Japan camp has been palpable.

“I still haven’t shed all my fatigue from the Hawks’ camp,” he said. “But wearing a Japan uniform, even practice really wears you down. But we’ll get over that and put things together.

“You can adjust and you can adjust, but if you don’t get results in games, then you have to keep at it. I want to make something happen before we leave for Osaka.”