Multiple local media outlets, including Japan’s “Nikan Sports,” reported an interview with Masato Yoshii on the 11th (Korea time). The head coach said in an interview with Japanese media that Rocky Sasaki, a monster of “up to 165 kilometers,” will start in an exchange match against the Lotte Giants at Itoman Stadium in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, on the 25th.토토사이트
According to Nikkan Sports, Atsuki Taneichi will take the mound in the match against Rakuten Golden Eagles on Sunday, Kazuya Ojima will take the mound in succession in the game against Lotte on Sunday, and Sasaki will take the mound in the 2024 season. What stands out most is Sasaki’s appearance. Last year, Lotte and Chiba Lotte also held joint training sessions at the spring camp, but due to the participation of the 1.5th tier team, there was no match between Sasaki and Lotte. However, this year, Sasaki and Lotte will be able to see their players have a showdown.
Sasaki can be said to be the “ace” representing the Japanese professional baseball, with Yoshinobu Yamamoto entering the Major League through a 12-year, $325 million (about 432.9 billion won) mega contract with the LA Dodgers. Sasaki, who joined Chiba Lotte in 2019, rose to “stardom” in April 2022 when he achieved “perfect game” against the Orix Buffaloes. He also became famous worldwide by blocking eight perfect innings in his appearance immediately after.
Sasaki also took a seat in the starting lineup at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March last year, showing off his excellent pitching, and has been receiving keen attention from big league clubs since then. As a result, Sasaki expressed his intention to challenge the major leagues through the posting system this winter, but his entry into the big leagues was thwarted when Chiba Lotte refused to allow it. And after causing a buzz in the salary negotiation process, he was at the center of the topic when news spread that he had withdrawn from the Japanese professional baseball team in early 2023.
This incident caused a big blow, but there was no mishap in which Sasaki and Chiba Lotte were preparing for the season separately. Sasaki signed the same salary as last year, with the start of spring camp imminent. After completing the contract at the time, Chiba Lotte covered Sasaki for the delay in his salary contract and rumors surrounding his advance to the Major League, saying, “There was also a club’s fault,” and he will be able to prepare for the 2024 season without any further noise.
Although Sasaki has not been able to play a full-time season due to injury for the past two consecutive seasons, his preparation has been very smooth so far. According to Japan’s Sankei Sports, Sasaki threw 37 pitches in the bullpen on the 2nd, and is checking his condition by throwing 52 pitches on the 4th, 35 pitches on the 8th, and 21 pitches on the 11th. Sasaki will make his first appearance against Lotte on the 25th and will pitch live in Ishigakijima to prepare for the 2024 season. “I’m definitely getting ready. My condition is also improving well. I’ll prepare without any hurry,” Sasaki said. “My goal for this season is to keep the starting rotation for one year.” he clenched his fists.
Sasaki has dealt with Korean players only once throughout her career. She played for the Japanese national team at the 2019 World Youth Baseball Championship (U-18) in Gijang, Busan, and was in charge of starting the match against Korea and Japan. However, Sasaki left the mound after throwing only 19 balls due to a finger blister injury, which had become a chronic problem. She did not participate in last year’s joint spring camp with Lotte, and the WBC game against the Czech Republic rather than the game against Korea and Japan did not provide her with a chance to face off against Korean players. With her scheduled appearance on the 25th, the only variable left is “weather.”
It was revealed on the 11th that Sasaki would take the mound against Lotte, but Lotte’s team seemed to know in advance that it would face Sasaki in this spring camp. Han Dong-hee, who met at the Dedeo Sports Complex in Guam on the 6th, said, “If you are selected by Team Korea, you will face major league players,” adding, “If you are selected by Team Korea, you should hit the Sasaki ball in Okinawa.”
Han Dong-hee had the worst year last year, but is grinding his teeth to make a comeback this winter. In particular, he is eager to visit a training center run by former Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Kang Jung-ho to make a difference. Based on his changed batting form, Han should prepare for the 2024 season to the extent that he has garnered four consecutive arches in spring camp practice batting.
Asked if he is looking forward to a showdown with Sasaki, Han said, “Maybe he will throw it in a practice match.” “Listening to the players who played live batting against Chiba Lotte players last year, I heard that Japanese players have a good tip on their cheeks. That’s why I’m looking forward to his showdown with Sasaki,” Han said with a big smile. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, experiencing a showdown with Sasaki, who sprays fastballs reaching mid-160 kilometers, can be a huge help to the players.
While Han Dong-hee showed high expectations, Lotte’s “Glasses Ace” Park Se-woong seemed rather calm. Park Se-woong already had a showdown with pitcher-to-pitch in the spring camp when Shohei Ohtani (LA Dodgers), a “700 million-dollar man,” was with the Nippon-Ham Fighters. At that time, Ohtani was already playing as the “Ace” of Nippon-Ham with 10 wins several times. I couldn’t recall the details of the game, but it was clear that he made a pitch that was as good as Ohtani.
Park said, “I didn’t think much about it. I’ve already played with Ohtani once. I don’t think there’s any pressure because Ohtani is a better player now.”