Baseball / Japanese Baseball | NPB NOTEBOOK

Slugger Guerrero remains in limbo on Yomiuri’s farm team

by Jason Coskrey

Sometimes the fake grass isn’t always greener in the other dome.

The Yomiuri Giants’ Alex Guerrero can probably attest to that. It’s been over a month since the Kyojin sent him to the farm team and just over a week since reports surfaced saying he was so upset at the situation he refused a meeting with Giants manager Yoshinobu Takahashi.

Unfortunately for him, it doesn’t look like he status has changed much since then.

The partnership between Guerrero, who played for the Chunichi Dragons in 2017, and Yomiuri was supposed to be a fruitful one. It certainly looked good from the outside. Guerrero was coming off leading the Central League in home runs and was moving from Nagoya Dome to Yomiuri’s nice, hitter-friendly Tokyo Dome.

Guerrero even got off to a hot start, hitting .323 with five home runs in March and April. He added four more homers in May, but hit at just a .226 clip during the month. He was 6-for-39 in June before the Kyojin deactivated him, citing “poor condition.” He’s hitting .253 with 10 homers overall for the top team.

Guerrero is probably itching for a return to playing under the bright lights, but there still doesn’t seem to be an easy path back.

While the Giants probably do miss the power threat Guerrero can pose, Casey McGehee has five home runs this month and four other Giants have three.

Not to mention the Kyojin would have to find a spot for Guerrero to play. Kazuma Okamoto, who leads the team with 17 home runs, and McGehee are entrenched at the corners, which really leaves only left field for Guerrero. The versatile Yoshiyuki Kamei is there now and offers much more defensively and is a good hitter to boot.

As far as a role on the bench as a pinch-hitter and occasional starter, the team already has Shinnosuke Abe for that.

Besides, Yomiuri can only carry four foreign players on ichi-gun level. The Giants currently have McGehee, reliever Scott Mathieson and pitchers Taylor Jungman and C.C. Mercedes on the top team. Mathieson and McGehee aren’t likely going anywhere and Jungman and Mercedes are looking like keepers early on.

Guerrero’s time might be coming, and the Giants might be ready for him after being swept by the Hiroshima Carp over the weekend. It’s just as easy, however, to imagine Guerrero’s stay off broadway stretching on even longer.

Which could make for interesting times in his relationship with the team and its coaches. Because it’s hard to imagine this was what the slugger expected when he signed with the Giants this offseason.

Message received

Hanshin Tigers pitcher Randy Messenger earned his 10th win of the season on Sunday against the Yokohama BayStars, giving the right-hander at least 10 wins in seven of his nine NPB seasons.

He also move another step closer to the 100-win milestone. Messenger is 94-76 with a 2.98 ERA in 1,464 inning in Japan, all with Hanshin. He’d be just the seventh foreign pitcher to reach the 100-win mark if he gets there.

Messenger stands to move even further up the list if he keeps playing, with the No. 3 spot on the foreign-born wins list, held by Taiwanese pitcher Taigen Kaku with 117 wins, likely within reach. The top two spots are held by Tadashi Wakabayashi (237) and Victor Starffin with 237 and 303 victories respectively.

Old reliable

Earlier this month, the Seibu Lions’ Sosuke Genda, the team’s second-year shortstop, set a new NPB record by playing in his 221st game without missing an inning since his debut, passing former Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima for that honor.

Now the Lions have done it again. Center fielder Shogo Akiyama played in his 536th straight game without missing an inning on Friday, breaking a tie with former Chiba Lotte Marines player Takashi Aiko to set a new Pacific League record.

Akiyama is currently sixth on the all-time list, with the Giants’ Hideki Matsui directly above him at 574 games. Tomoaki Kanemoto holds the NPB record with 1,492.