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Jim Allen

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Chunichi shuffle still a mystery

by Jim Allen (Apr 13, 2010)

It took over a year but Chunichi skipper Hiromitsu Ochiai has finally managed to give his infield a new look.

A year after saying he would flip-flop Japan's premier double play combination, six-time Golden Glove-winning second baseman Masahiro Araki took over as the Dragons' shortstop on Opening Day.

"I have no idea why we did it," Araki told The Daily Yomiuri on Saturday at Tokyo Dome.

Araki, who began his career as an outfielder, took over at short from Hirokazu Ibata, who also collected a sixth-straight Golden Glove last autumn and moved to second base.

"I am still not used to it," said Araki, who had prepared in the spring of 2009 to make the switch only for the skipper to have a change of heart at the last minute.

"They told us about three days before Opening Day, and that was that."

The change so far hasn't hurt Chunichi in the standings. They entered Sunday's game tied for the league lead but fell a game back of the Yomiuri Giants, who beat them 7-1 at Tokyo Dome behind seven strong innings from Shun Tono (2-1).

Despite the mystery surrounding this switch and Ochiai's other idiosyncricies, Chunichi has not finished worse than third since he took over the Dragons' job in 2004.

"There are lots of decisions the players don't understand, but we win," Araki said.


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