• Kyodo


Yuki Yanagita, who is recovering from offseason elbow surgery, hit two monster home runs for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Friday’s preseason 3-3 tie against the Hanshin Tigers.

“I was able to make some good swings. I guess it was good because I got results, but it’s what happens from now that matters,” said Yanagita, who is gunning to be the first player with 40 home runs and 40 stolen bases in the same season in Nippon Professional Baseball.

Still unable to play in the outfield because of his elbow surgery, Yanagita, last year’s Pacific League MVP had not homered in his first 19 at-bats of the spring, went deep in his second at-bat of the game. He dove into a first-pitch fastball away from Tigers right-hander Randy Messenger and drove it 10 rows back into Yafuoku Dome’s remote left-field stands for an opposite-field shot.

In his next at-bat, Yanagita got a 149 kph fastball down the pipe from right-hander Rafael Dolis and launched it into the final row of seats far beyond the outfield wall.

“I timed it well and it carried for me,” Yanagita said.

The home runs did more than just dent a couple of seats. They also left an impression on Hawks chairman Sadaharu Oh, who hit a record 868 in his career.

“That was something,” Oh said. “There’s a lot of value in hitting home runs that amaze the fans.”

There was more good news for the Hawks from Daisuke Matsuzaka, who reported no issues a day after throwing two perfect innings in a practice game, his first live game since having shoulder surgery last year.

“The muscles in my shoulder feel firm, they feel good,” said Matsuzaka, who is scheduled next to pitch in a minor league instructional game on Thursday.

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