While baseball fans may have seen the last of pitchers not named Shohei Ohtani batting in MLB, Central League hurlers are still stepping into the batter’s box in Japan — and they looked pretty good on Saturday.
The CL became one of the last pro leagues where pitchers still bat — the DH is used in NPB’s Pacific League — when MLB announced it would implement the universal DH and bring the system to the National League for the first time.
The CL has resisted the change so far, despite the best efforts of Yomiuri Giants manager Tatsunori Hara, and Central League pitchers had a good afternoon at the plate on the second day of the NPB season.
The Chunichi Dragons’ Akiyoshi Katsuno hit a two-run home run against the Giants to give his team the lead at Tokyo Dome on Saturday, and Yomiuri starter Iori Yamasaki connected on an RBI single earlier in the game.
“I went into that at-bat looking for a fastball with the feeling that I was definitely going to hit it,” Katsuno told reporters about his homer off Yamasaki, which was the first of his career. “I’m happy that I was able to come up with a good result.
In Yokohama, Hiroshima Carp starter Masato Morishita drove in three runs on two singles and a double in a win over the DeNA BayStars. The Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Keiji Takahashi also had a single in his club’s victory over the Hanshin Tigers in Osaka.
Overall, CL pitchers went 6-for-12 with six RBIs during the Saturday matinee of games.
Dragons starter Yudai Ono got things started on Friday by going 2-for-2 against the Giants on opening night, with both hits coming against Kyojin ace Tomoyuki Sugano. Daichi Osera also got on base with an RBI single for the Carp in their opener against the BayStars.
Adding the universal DH has divided opinions among MLB fans, with some applauding the change after calling for it for many years, while others are against the move. Hara has argued the CL needs to implement the DH in order to keep pace with the Pacific League, which regularly finishes with the most wins in interleague play and won every Japan Series from 2013-2020.
Now that MLB has added the DH in the NL, its possible the CL may follow suit in the future. For now, pitchers will bat, except during interleague games in PL parks.
Central League pitchers hit .101 in 2021 and .112 the year before that. So it is highly unlikely the league will become home to a host of Ohtani clones. That did not stop a couple hurlers from enjoying their moment in the sun during opening weekend.
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Source: The Japan Times