It's been a while. Here is a random collection of news articles I've read recently and found interesting enough to share.
- Fresh off his release from the Red Sox, Itsuki Shoda is headed to Niigata of the independent BC League.
- Yusei Kikuchi has made Seibu's opening day roster, and will start the year in middle relief. He's also working on a two-seam fastball and a changeup, and hit 155 km/h on the gun in a bullpen session.
- Hanshin's opening day starter? Hasn't been announced, but lefty Atsushi Nohmi is reportedly in the mix. I can't see why it wouldn't be Yasutomo Kubo.
- Osamu Hamanaka is surprisingly a candidate to hit third for Yakult. Hamanka was a good hitter early in his career with Hanshin, but he's been badly derailed by injuries. Perhaps he'll experience a Ken Suzuki-style resurgence with Yakult; it is the time of year for optimism.
- Yu Darvish has been experimenting again with a one-seam fastball, and broke Seiichi Uchikawa's bat with one in a full count on the 6th. I had thought the one-seam was something new that Darvish invented, but the Nikkan Sports article I linked to says that Tim Hudson and Joel Pineiro throw it. Daigo Fujiwara posted a great summary of the pitch last August.
- As of the 8th, the parking lot at Chiba's newly-renamed QVC Marine Field had not been cleared for usage.
- Seibu has announced that closer Brian Sikorski has returned to Japan after a temporary post-quake visit to the US. All five of Seibu's players are now back in Japan. Jose Fernandezadmitted to taking it easy while he was away, and since it took a long time to get Sikorski back, the Lions had been looking at using rookie Tatsuya Oishi as their closer.
- Yokohama's Brent Leach has decided not to return to Japan, and the BayStars have classified him as a "restricted player" (seigen senshu). According to Nikkan Sports, the restricted player designation was established in 1998, and is intended for players who are taking a personal break from baseball activities. Leach is the first player classified as restricted since the rule's inception.
- Former Chiba Lotte Marines pitchers Tomohiro "Johnny" Kuroki and Satoru Komiyama will be raising a rice field with fans in Sodegaura, Chiba this year.
- iPhone users: magazine Yakyu Kozo has released an app called Makyu Kozo, a cartoon-ish pitching simulation. It looks like it is available in the US app store as well.
And in a site announcement, I'd like to officially welcome our newest writer to NPB Tracker, Adam Burton. Adam is a translator based in the Kansai region of Japan, and has kicked off his NPB Tracker career with a couple MLB updates. Needless to say, we're happy to have him on board.