The coronavirus crisis has reached Japanese baseball, with the Hanshin Tigers announcing Friday three players had tested positive for the virus.
Pitcher Shintaro Fujinami, outfielder Hayata Ito and catcher Kenya Nagasaka were each given PCR tests for the virus on Thursday and all came back positive.
The team is currently looking into who the three players have come in contact with recently, including family members, and is cooperating with public health officials.
“Yesterday, Fujinami, Nagasaka and Hayata Ito received PCR tests at a hospital in Osaka,” team president Kenji Ageshio said in a statement.” Regrettably, I have to report that the tests were positive. Currently, we are in the middle of working with the public to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Fujinami was examined by a doctor at a hospital on Thursday after losing his sense of smell. He didn’t display any other symptoms. The pitcher agreed to a PCR test on a doctor’s recommendation. The result came back late Thursday night that the pitcher had tested positive, making him the first NPB player confirmed to have the virus.
On Thursday, the Tigers also instructed their players and staff members to remain at home. The team also disinfected some of its baseball facilities and canceled Thursday’s farm team game against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.
Multiple outlets reported Friday morning that two more Tigers players, who had eaten a meal with Fujinami, had also tested positive. The team later revealed Ito and Nagasaka’s diagnosis.
“So from now, while relying on and cooperating with health centers, local advisers, doctors and team doctors, we are going to do everything we can to help prevent the spread of the virus,” Ageshio said.
Fujinami, a native of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, was the Tigers’ top pick in the 2012 draft. He’s been an All-Star three times, though he’s been plagued by control issues in recent years. Fujinami is 50-40 with a 3.25 ERA in seven seasons. He has 809 career strikeouts, including an NPB-best 221 in 2015.
Ito was Hanshin’s first-round choice in the 2011 draft. The 30-year-old outfielder has a .240 career average with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs. Nagasaka, 25, made his debut in 2017 and has appeared in 13 top-team games.
The positive tests present another obstacle for NPB, which has already pushed back the start of its season because of the pandemic.
Opening day, originally slated for March 20, is currently scheduled for April 24.