Pitcher Shohei Otani will return to the mound with the first team on Wednesday, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters announced on Tuesday.
Due to injuries, Otani’s mound action this season has been limited to a one-inning minor league rehab start on July 1. The 2016 Pacific League MVP, Otani hurt his right ankle on the basepaths during last October’s Japan Series — when he last pitched for the Fighters’ first team.
“I don’t feel any different,” Otani said Tuesday at Kyocera Dome before the Fighters’ game against the Orix Buffaloes. “I’d like to hold them scoreless.”
On April 8, Otani injured a muscle in his left thigh while trying to beat out an infield single. That sidelined him for 81 days.
“I’m not going to let him pitch that much,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “He’ll need to build up his pitch counts.”
In related news, Otani was again picked in a fan ballot to take part in both of this year’s All-Star home run derbies, NPB announced Tuesday.
The Fighters star will be joined in the pregame slugfests at Nagoya Dome and Zozo Marine Stadium by Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks center fielder Yuki Yanagita, who leads both leagues with 23 home runs.
On Friday in Nagoya, the Pacific Leaguers will go up against Central League home run leader Alex Guerrero of the hometown Chunichi Dragons and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the Yokohama BayStars.
Tsutsugo will be back before Saturday’s game in Chiba, where he will team up with Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp.
Last summer, Otani was picked among the pitchers for the PL All-Star squad, but only appeared as a hitter.
Otani won the home run derby prior to Game 1. He lost the exhibition before Game 2, but was named the game’s MVP.
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