Don Mattingly to manage MLB stars against Samurai Japan

Kyodo

Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly will lead a team of major league All-Stars against Japan’s national team, Samurai Japan, in November.

It will be the first time the two sides have met since 2014, ending a drought of visits by the MLB All-Star side.

“We are very pleased to announce the manager will be Don Mattingly,” Jim Small, Major League Baseball vice president for Asia, told a news conference on Monday.

“Don was not only a legendary player with the New York Yankees, but has had success as a manager both with the Los Angeles Dodgers and recently with the Miami Marlins, where he was a manager of Ichiro Suzuki.”

Small said he had hoped to announce a few players for the series that will start on Nov. 9 with three games at Tokyo Dome, one at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium on Nov. 13 and the final two at Nagoya Dome over the following two days.

Instead, Small said complicated contracts, as well as financial and insurance issues, are making this year’s roster for the tour the hardest to compile to date.

“I’ve seen a list of dozens of superstar players who’ve put their hands up to say, ‘I want to go to play in Japan in November,’ ” Small said. “We’re close on a number of players, and we look forward to announcing the rest of the team within the coming weeks.”

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics just around the corner, NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito said he hopes these games will be a springboard for Japan in its quest to win Olympic gold.

“We want these players, representing their country, to win every game,” Saito said. “Hopefully, children will see these hotly contested games against these great players from MLB and it will spark greater interest in baseball.”

In 2014, the first time the tour became branded as a competition instead of an exhibition, Japan won the five-game series 3-2, with the visitors being no-hit once.

“Japanese baseball has never been more popular than it is now in America and Canada,” Small said. “We’ve seen Japanese players come to America and make history.

“We will put together a team that will satisfy our fans but also compete against Samurai Japan.”

Six NPB players, however, were announced. They are Yomiuri Giants ace right-hander Tomoyuki Sugano, Yokohama BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki, second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi of the Hiroshima Carp, center fielders Shogo Akiyama of the Seibu Lions and Yuki Yanagita of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo of the BayStars.

The prize money for each game will be ¥10 million (roughly $90,000) and the series-winning team will receive ¥40 million.

In the field, Japan will use the official World Baseball Softball Confederation ball, while the major leaguers will be throwing and fielding official MLB balls.

There will also be two warm-up games, pitting Japan against Taiwan at Fukuoka’s Yafuoku Dome on Nov. 7, and another between the major leaguers and the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome on Nov. 8.

In other news, Shohei Ohtani, who is recovering from a right elbow injury, threw a simulated game at the Los Angeles Angels’ training facility in Tempe, Arizona, on Monday.

The Angels reported that everything went smoothly as the 24-year-old faced hitters in the batter’s box for the first time since he last pitched in a game on June 6, before he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow.