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John E. Gibson

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U-turn sees Takada quit Swallows

by John E. Gibson (May 28, 2010)

Tokyo Yakult skipper Shigeru Takada found this season just too hard to Swallow.

The manager of the Central League's last-place club called it quits Wednesday night after a 3-2 interleague loss to the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles at Jingu Stadium.

Prior to the game, Takada denied reports that he had already asked the team to be relieved. Later, however, he admitted his decision to quit was made before he got to the ballpark.

"It didn't matter whether we had won or lost tonight, I knew it in my gut the moment I left my house this morning," said the skipper, who guided the Swallows to their first Climax Series playoff appearance with a third-place finish last season.

Prior to securing the CL's third spot last year, however, the club faded badly and there was speculation Takada would quit, but that had to wait until his team lost its 14th one-run loss of the season.

The Swallows had dropped nine straight and were 19 games under .500 heading in to Thursday's matchup with the Eagles.

Head coach Junji Ogawa was named the interim coach for the final 98 games.

"I was going to see how we did in interleague play, and then assess things," Takada said. "But the way we've been playing, I couldn't continue this way," Takada said after holding an emergency meeting with club president Tadashi Suzuki following the loss to Rakuten.

"I'm going to hang up the uniform. I apologize for throwing in the towel midseason."

Ogawa, a former Yakult player and a coach with the organization since 1996, said his future as a skipper with the Swallows is murky, but his plan for the short term is clear.

"We need to do all we can as individuals to improve," Ogawa said as the Swallows prepared to take on the Eagles in the second of their two-game set at Jingu.

"The focus is on the games. The only thing I can do is get the players to give their best effort, and get them to perform each day.

"I talked on the phone today [with the front office] about the roster and making changes. I have my own ideas and a plan in mind, but really, I'm just the interim manager. I'm not in a position to say we should do this or that."

When asked if he will try to put his stamp on the team, his reply was simply: "I have absolutely no desire to try and do something to get noticed or make myself the focus."

The club is expected to make pitching coach Daisuke Araki the manager in the offseason.

Meanwhile, the club deactivated closer Lim Chang Yong, who felt pain in his right knee in Wednesday's game.


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