Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Swallows manager Junji Ogawa to step down after season

Kyodo

Tokyo Yakult Swallows manager Junji Ogawa said Sunday he intends to take responsibility for the Central League club’s poor performance this year and retire when his two-year contract expires at the end of the season.

The announcement follows Yakult’s 10-6 loss to the Yomiuri Giants on Saturday, which ensured the last-place Swallows will miss out on a spot in the Climax Series. Yakult head coach Shinya Miyamoto said he also plans to leave the club.

“There was poor direction and inadequacy in my management,” said Ogawa, whose team slipped to a 52-76 record, more than 18 games behind the league-leading Giants.

The 62-year-old returned as the Swallows’ manager last season after a four-year break, and boosted the club from last in the league in 2017 to second in 2018.

The team has had a number of setbacks this season, however, and matched a league-worst 16 straight losses from May to June despite the development of 19-year-old infield talent Munetaka Murakami.

Also on Sunday, infielder Kazuhiro Hatakeyama decided to call time on his career at the end of the season, a team source said. The 36-year-old has struggled with lower body issues this year and has yet to make a single appearance for the top team.

Hatakeyama joined the Swallows out of high school in 2001, and led the Central League with 105 RBIs in 2015 to help the club win the pennant.

A two-time Golden Glove winner at first base, Hatakeyama has a .265 batting average with 128 home runs and 567 RBIs over 1,105 games.

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