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With the World Baseball Classic looming in March, slugging second baseman Tetsuto Yamada is facing a huge challenge — not only to hit against the best pitchers in the world, but to do so while negotiating a new position.

The 2015 Central League MVP, Yamada is arguably Japan’s best player. The problem for him and for Samurai Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo is Hiroshima Carp star Ryosuke Kikuchi, a competent offensive performer who may be the world’s best-fielding second baseman.

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