• Kyodo

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Japan’s two-way phenom Shohei Otani rung up a fever of 38.5 that forced him out of Sunday’s workout with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, and there is growing concern about what kind of shape the sweet-hitting fireballer will be in when the World Baseball Classic starts in early March.

The Japan squad is set to report to camp in Miyazaki on Feb. 23, before its first game of the tournament against Cuba in Tokyo on March 7.

Otani, who will be playing in his first WBC, not only has to get his arm ready but his stroke as well, with Japan counting on him to perform both on the mound and at the plate.

The reigning Pacific League MVP has thrown lightly in the bullpen but nothing more. With almost a full month less to prepare than he would have for a regular Japanese season, it remains to be seen how much Otani’s condition will pick up by the WBC.

“I’ve got the WBC to worry about first. I need to get as ready as well as I can,” Otani said Saturday, before leaving Japan for the United States.

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