There’s been a whole lotta action in the Japanese baseball world, both in the Majors and Nippon Professional Baseball, in recent weeks, and Take 5 is stepping up to the plate to give you the lowdown, including a couple curveballs.
- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $8.5 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels this month. Despite showing flashes of brilliance in his first two seasons in the majors, he has only seen limited time on the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Angels called the deal one with “risk and reward to both sides” as Ohtani took part in his first official workout ahead of the 2021 MLB season.
- The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, nabbed its latest Japanese pitcher, reaching a two-year, $3 million agreement with free-agent reliever Hirokazu Sawamura. The 32-year-old became the latest Japanese pitcher to sign with Boston, following such big names as Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara.
- Japanese right-hander Shun Yamaguchi — the first player ever posted by Japan’s tradition-bound Yomiuri Giants — has had a roller-coaster February. After being released by the Toronto Blue Jays, he inked a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants instead of returning to Japan. After a poor season with the Jays, Yamaguchi said he is determined to make the Big League roster. “I’m not satisfied with my results. With the situation I’m in now, I want to see how far I can go.”
- In Dai Nippon, fans will be happy to see former big leaguers Masahiro Tanaka and Yoshihisa Hirano returning to NPB. Hirano rejoined his first pro team, the Orix Buffaloes, and Tanaka made his spring debut with his former club, the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles last week.
- And speaking of spring training, camp kicked off quietly for NPB this month, with all 12 teams playing in empty ballparks, while all players, managers, coaches and staff required to undergo PCR testing before reporting for duty amid the pandemic.