The final stage of the Central League Climax Series got underway with both teams getting prepared for starters--a whole lot of starters.
The CL-winning Chunichi Dragons have what appears to be an embarrassment of riches on the mound. Chen Wei-yin started Game 1 and Kazuki Yoshimi is likely to start Game 2, but after that, the Giants can only guess at who they'll face because the Dragons can dig deep into a healthy well of hurlers.
"We've faced all their pitchers during the regular season, so we know how to attack them and what to do," said Yomiuri hitting coach Kazunori Shinozuka.
"We have data on all of them, so it really doesn't matter who we face. We just have to do a good job of getting in a good count and taking solid swings at pitches in the zone."
Chen, who started on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome, was 3-3 with a 3.52 ERA vs the Giants in the regular season and Yoshimi was 4-1 with a 4.29 ERA.
The Giants could see also see Chunichi postseason hero Daisuke Yamai, who came within three outs of a perfect game in the Japan Series 2007 and took a no-no into the ninth against Yomiuri here on Aug. 18.
Hard-throwing righty Maximo Nelson is another, while candidate Kenichi Nakata came on at the end of the season and has playoff experience.
Also, 47-year-old veteran Masahiro Yamamoto, who has 41 career victories against Yomiuri, might get a start if the Dragons are leading in the series.
The Giants, who finished third in the CL and swept the second-place Hanshin Tigers this past weekend in the first stage at Koshien Stadium, used four starters--two for two innings of relief--to get through that series.
They brought back Shun Tono on three days' rest to start Wednesday, and Tetsuya Utsumi and Shogo Fujii are the logical choices to start the next two games.
After that, the choices and number of innings for each starter are vague even among the pitchers.
"They said be ready for anything," said Seth Greisinger, a starter who allowed a run in three innings of relief against the Tigers in Sunday's close-out victory.
"Whoever's starting today knows, and possibly whoever's starting tomorrow knows, but after that, they just told us it's just kind of pitching by committee.
"They'll tell us each day before the meeting which guys are in the bullpen and which guys aren't. And if you're in the bullpen, you can pitch pretty much whenever they want you to."
That could make it difficult for the Dragons to prepare as well.
"If we had the type of rotation where we had five or six guys to give us seven, eight innings every time out, I think the coach would probably prefer that," Greisinger said.
"Unfortunately, none of us have had a great season. Tono had a pretty good season, but from that standpoint, yeah, it makes it a little bit difficult on the opposition just because they have to face several different pitchers in the course of a game. It could make it a little bit more difficult, but I don't know, I'm not a hitter," he quipped.
When asked about having the opportunity to keep the Dragons off balance with their cloak-and-dagger rotation, Giants pitching coach Masaki Saito wore a wry smile while responding.
"That's for our opponents to be concerned about. That's not what something we're particularly worried about," Saito said.
"We just want whoever starts to go out and give it their all and try to get through this stage [of the playoffs]."