There were two 2021 debuts that merited attention in NPB on Saturday.

One was the return of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who stepped back on an NPB mound for the first time since 2013. The other was a relief appearance by Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks pitcher Carter Stewart Jr. against the Seibu Lions at MetLife Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

Tanaka garnered most of the headlines, but Stewart’s first steps in NPB could have a greater impact in the long run.