ASAHIKAWA, HOKKAIDO – Shohei Otani, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ slugging ace pitcher expects more from his start on Thursday than he got during his aborted first outing over a month ago.
“If I can make use of the work I’ve put in since last, time, I’ll be happy,” Otani said Wednesday on the eve of his second start of the season.
“The number of bullpen sessions I’ve thrown is different and so is my physical condition. My fitness has improved.”
On July 12, Otani allowed four runs on two hits and three walks over 1⅓ innings against the Orix Buffaloes. After showing passable command of his fastball in a farm team start, Otani’s big heat was all over the place against the Buffaloes.
Because of a postseason ankle injury, Otani was unable to pitch prior to the season, and his return to the mound was further delayed in April, when he injured a muscle in his left thigh. In recent weeks, however, Otani has been running better than he has all year.
Thursday’s game will be against the runaway Pacific League leaders, the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who have not beaten him since Sept. 10, 2015.
“It’s not about who our opponent is,” Otani said. “All that matters is that I pitch in a way that keeps them from scoring.”