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Otani set for likely final NPB appearance

Kyodo

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ slugging ace Shohei Otani will play in what is expected to be his last game in Japan on Monday, despite soreness stemming from his two-hit shutout in his previous start.

The fifth-place Fighters on Monday end what has been a forgettable season for the defending Japan Series champion at the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Said to be moving to the major leagues through the posting system this winter, Otani likely played his last game at Sapporo Dome on Wednesday in style, batting cleanup while striking out 10 over the distance.

Otani practiced with the team at Zozo Marine Stadium on Sunday ahead of traveling to Sendai, focusing on his recovery work. Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said he hoped to play his 23-year-old sweet-hitting flamethrower as long as Otani’s body permits him to.

As fate would have it, Otani’s expected final appearance in Japan will be in his native Tohoku region. Otani is from Iwate Prefecture, where he starred at Hanamaki Higashi High School.

“We’ll try to get him out there from the start,” Kuriyama said. “We want the people of Tohoku to enjoy seeing him in as many at-bats as possible.”