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Japan Series notebook: Seibu skipper throws a curve

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Japan Series notebook: Seibu skipper throws a curve

by Jim Allen (Nov 2, 2008)

Lions manager Hisanobu Watanabe's first pitch in his quest for baseball supremacy was a changeup.

The former pitcher decided deception would work in his favor during the 2008 Japan Series by refusing to announce his starting pitchers in advance.

All year long the leagues are split on the issue, with the Central League refusing to announce them even in Pacific League parks during interleague.

This time, Tatsunori Hara, manager of the CL champion Giants, wanted to be upfront, while PL champion skipper Watanabe opted on the side of secrecy.

The first-year Saitama Seibu skipper said before Saturday's Game 1 at Tokyo Dome that it was no big deal not knowing.

"I think I can guess [the Giants starter]," Watanabe said. "And if I guess wrong, it doesn't matter all that much."

A day earlier, Watanabe said he thought guessing the opposing pitchers would be fun.

"It's a side of the game I don't get to experience much in the season. Now that were here, I intend to enjoy it."

Okamoto makes it 3 straight: Lions middle reliever Shinya Okamoto has finally got the hang of this postseason thing.

The right-hander, who joined the Seibu as compensation for the Chunichi Dragons' signing free agent Lions outfielder Kazuhiro Wada last winter, is pitching in his third straight Japan Series and the fourth of his career.

"I'm the only one who can say that," Okamoto said before Game 1.

In his first two Series with the Dragons, Okamoto was awful--allowing eight runs in 7-1/3 innings. But starting in the second stage of last season's CL Climax Series, he was his usual self, working 2-2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

"At first it was completely different, but I've pitched in so many of these games now, I've gotten used to it."

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