Three months after he was the hottest amateur prospect in Japan, Shota Oba went after pro batters trying to connect off him on Tuesday.The Hawks rookie showed some of his stuff in a simulated game at Fukuoka SoftBank's spring training camp in Miyazaki.
The 22-year-old's first pitch of the day, a 146-kph fastball, was stung by veteran slugger Nobuhiko Matsunaka, but the rest of his teammates had a tougher time.
"I wanted that pitch to go inside but it got up and he hit it hard," said Ohba, whose negotiating rights went to the Hawks in a lottery in the second phase of the 2007 draft.
Ohba and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles lefty Kohei Hasebe were the hot picks of players already out of high school. Ohba was named by six teams as their first-round pick, while Hasebe, who was picked for the Japan national team in December's Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, was selected by five.
Ohba showed good movement on his pitches even if his control was what one would expect for the second week of camp.
He struck out the second batter he faced on a fastball that wobbled a bit.
"It wasn't supposed to, but that fastball had some reverse action on it. It wasn't pretty but I'll take it," Ohba said.
Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh, however, wasn't interested in the number of hits off his rookie but in the quality of his pitches.
"I was more interested in his movement, and that was just fine," Oh said.
Although Ohba hit 149 kph on the speed gun, he was skeptical of that figure.
"I am not yet at full speed, but even so, I think the numbers [for me] were a little high," he said. "Still, I was happy being able to throw that hard. My fastballs were getting too much of the plate, but all in all I was satisfied."
If Oh was dissatisfied at all it was that the youngster seems keen on using all his pitches rather than just blowing away batters with his heat.
"I think he's the kind of pitcher who could dominate batters with his fastball," Oh said.
"But that's not his style. He didn't have good movement on his slider or his forkball and they were either sailing or hanging. I guess he was trying hard to impress and that's part of the process."
Dragons add flamethrower
The defending Japan Series champion Chunicni Dragons on Tuesday announced the signing of hard-throwing right-hander Maximo Nelson of the Dominican Republic.
The 25-year-old, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 163 kph, inked a one-year deal reportedly worth 100,000 dollars.
Nelson, who was at one time in the New York Yankees farm system, made the club after a tryout.