FUKUOKA – Shohei Otani will throw the first pitch in the new Premier 12 tournament on Sunday against South Korea, Samurai Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo said Tuesday.
The Group B game at Sapporo Dome will be the curtain raiser for the competition between the 12th highest ranked national federations. Kokubo’s team is training in Fukuoka and will play exhibition games against Puerto Rico on Thursday and Friday at Yafuoku Dome.
“The first game is extremely important,” Otani said. “I want to do my best to compete with all I’ve got.”
Otani’s 15 wins led the Pacific League this season with the Nippon Ham Fighters, who call Sapporo Dome their home. Kokubo wants the flame thrower to take on the powerful Korean lineup on his terms.
“Working from a mound he’s familiar with, I believe he can force them into submission,” Kokubo said.
Otani threw a light bullpen session on Tuesday, getting a feel for his pitches and mixing in his breaking balls.
“I want to go out with an attitude that I’m not going to (be) beat,” Otani said. “If we all compete with an attitude like that…”
Kokubo said he was pleased with how well his players moved considering some of them hadn’t seen live game action since the end of the regular season a month ago. On the first day of practice, they spent time working on pickoff plays and bunt shifts.
“They came prepared,” he said. “They had an edge to them.
“We’ve only got a week, but I’d like to complete our positioning during the warm-up games.”
Following the opener in Sapporo, Japan will join the other teams in Taiwan, where the remainder of the group-stage games and quarterfinals will be held. The tournament will conclude at Tokyo Dome, with semifinals on Nov. 19 and 20, and the bronze-medal game and final on Nov. 21.
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