Is Akinori Sasaki “estranged” from his former mentor? The “real reason” for the prolonged contract negotiations with Chiba Lotte. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Is Akinori Sasaki “estranged” from his former mentor? The “real reason” for the prolonged contract negotiations with Chiba Lotte.

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After the game, in which they lost Game 4 of the Climax Series against the Orix and failed to reach the Japan Series, they went to greet the fans who filled the stands. The leaders asked Sasaki to take the plate, but it was not to be. Sasaki watched his final moments on the bench.

Chiba Lotte Marines pitcher Akinori Sasaki, 22, had his contract renewal carried over to the new year for the first time since turning pro. He has informed the team of his intention to challenge for a major league contract through the posting system, and there is a possibility that he will travel to the United States as early as the end of the 2012 season.

According to reports in the sports press, Lotte team president Shunsuke Kosaka said on January 4, “From my standpoint, I would like to refrain from commenting,” and then added, “The team has not changed its stance on encouraging successful players to try out for the majors. However, that is not the only reason why he has not signed. A Chiba Lotte alumnus revealed, “Akinori (Sasaki)’s contract was not signed.

I think the reason why Akinori (Sasaki)’s contract negotiation was postponed is because he wants to get some kind of assurance this time about his intention to challenge for the Majors, which he told the team. Last year, he contributed to the World Championship in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March, but his contribution to Lotte was not 100 points as he left the team temporarily in July with a left abdominal injury. There is an opinion that it is ‘still too early,’ three years earlier than Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who also went to the Majors by posting from Lotte in his eighth year, but the fact that he has lost his feelings for manager Rito Yoshii (58), who protected him when he was pitching coach, is also a factor.”

Sasaki and Yoshii. There are cracks in the relationship that was once called a “honeymoon” between master and disciple. Yoshii’s resignation does not mean that he is stepping down, but what exactly happened between the two?

The current Sasaki is probably due in large part to Yoshii, who as pitching coach after Sasaki became a pro, has helped Sasaki develop physically and has been able to adjust the amount of practice he has had to do. When Sasaki joined the team in 2008, Yoshii, who was the first-team pitching coach under former manager Yoshihito Iguchi, had Sasaki come with the team even if he did not pitch in a single game. Even though some questioned the “special treatment,” Yoshii put Sasaki in an environment where he could closely observe the adjustments of a pitcher who would be a member of the starting rotation, and he spent a considerable amount of time working on his pitching form, which was less stressful on his body.

As a result, Sasaki began to distinguish himself in his second year with the team in 2009, and was selected to start the first game of the Climax Series (CS) against Rakuten in the first stage, striking out 10 in 6 innings and allowing one run to win the first game. Many believe that this was the reason why Sasaki was selected to start the first game against Rakuten in the first stage of the Max Series (CS) and contributed to the first game win with 10 strikeouts and one run allowed in six innings. So what was it that led Sasaki to leave Yoshii’s mind? An alumnus of the team reveals the following.

I think it was after Akinori (Sasaki) hurt his left side in a game against Softbank on July 24 last year. It was announced that it would be two months before he could pitch at full strength, and we thought it would be difficult for him to return during the regular season. Moreover, the armpit is a muscle that a pitcher uses every time he throws a pitch, and if he tears the same part of his abdomen again, it could become a habit.

Sasaki is the type of pitcher who, once he takes the mound, throws as many innings as possible and does not want to put a burden on the relievers or relief pitchers. However, he has to push his pitches with a straight line and a fork, and he doesn’t have enough time to “pull it out” in a good sense considering the total of the 9th inning, so he has pitched as hard as he could from the beginning. So, when he got injured, he might have thought that it would be difficult for him to return to the pitching staff during this season. However, Yoshii told the media, “I hope he will be back by the end of the season. I think this slight discrepancy was the catalyst.

Pitching coach Yoshii (at the time) looking after Akinori Sasaki at Ishigakijima Camp.

In fact, several team officials saw Sasaki crying with tears in his eyes when he came out of the manager’s office after the game in which he was injured. One baseball team official revealed the following.

We felt that Akinori had grown mentally before he went to the WBC last year. During the camp last February, he ordered and distributed shoes to everyone who supported the team. I felt a kind of determination to carry the team on his back, and after returning to Japan, I got the impression that Akinori had peeled off his skin as he began to talk to people from the baseball team. I think he gained confidence after becoming the world’s No. 1 player in the United States.

From that point on, I began to sense that Akinori had a strong desire to “do it for the team. I think that is why he cried because of his frustration at not being able to pitch for the team when he injured his abdomen and did not know if he would be able to come back during the season.

A trainer who has seen players from other teams who have also recovered from a torn arachnoid revealed, “I haven’t actually touched Sasaki’s body, so my impression is based on what I saw him pitch.

When I saw reports of Sasaki’s injury, I predicted that it would take three months for him to return to competition. Sasaki throws a great ball, but his body is not ready yet. If we were to use a car analogy, the body of the car is a light truck but the engine is a Ferrari. Looking at the way he throws, he is at risk of hurting not only his armpits, but also his hip joints, right shoulder, and lower back. That is probably why people with experience, like manager Yoshii, are adjusting the amount of practice to prevent Sasaki from injuring himself even after he turns pro.”

An injury that would take three months to recover from if an outsider were to look at it. If he had been Yoshii’s pitching coach, he might have arranged a program that would not rush his return to the pitching staff in order to avoid overworking him. However, Mr. Yoshii, who had been the pitching coach, was promoted to manager, and his position changed. At the time, the team was in second place, trailing the top-ranked Orix and had a bankroll of more than 10, but as the leader of the team, he probably wanted to keep Sasaki if there was a possibility that he could keep him as a competitive force. Yoshii planned to bring Sasaki’s return to the team earlier, and he made his move. A sports newspaper desk clerk revealed, “Yoshii used his own network of contacts to get the team back to the top.

Yoshii used his network to contact trainers in the major leagues to obtain information that would lead to an earlier return to the team, and it seems that he also asked Sasaki to move up his return to the team.

Sasaki (left) and Shohei Ohtani chat with Yoshii, who served as Japan’s pitching coach for the WBC. Will Sasaki be able to secure a contract to play in the U.S. next season with Otani?

In fact, Sasaki returned to the lineup against the Orix on September 10, less than two months after his injury. He made two more appearances, on September 17 against Seibu and on October 14 against SoftBank in the Climax Series, but both games lasted only three innings. The desk clerk continues, “When he starts, he goes as long as he can.

Sasaki wants to pitch as many innings as possible when he starts, but the fact that he has pitched only three innings in all of his appearances since his return to the lineup suggests that he is in no condition to pitch any longer. Manager Yoshii wanted to use Sasaki even if he was not in perfect condition, so that he could win as many games as possible and go to the Japan Series. However, when I think about it from Sasaki’s perspective, it is understandable that he was asked to return to the pitching staff before he was back to full fitness, risking a recurrence of his condition, and felt confused by the difference from “Yoshii’s pitching coach”.

Sasaki’s last appearance last season was on October 14 against SoftBank, and the leaders had planned to have him start the following week against the Orix in Game 4 of the Climax Series on October 21. However, I heard that Atsuki Taneichi started instead of Sasaki, because Sasaki turned down the start, perhaps because he was not fully recovered from an injury.

In late September last year, Taneichi’s right elbow was found to be inflamed and he was removed from the first-team roster. He was not scheduled to pitch after that. There were twists and turns behind the sudden promotion of a pitcher with elbow problems to the starting lineup just before an important “lose and you’re out” game.

According to a report in Sports Nippon and other media, manager Yoshii revealed on a talk show late last year that Sasaki had made a direct appeal to the team to move to the majors on a posting.

If it were me, I would have thought that I would have to repay the team a little more first.

Will Sasaki sign before the start of camp? What will be of equal interest is how Sasaki will “return the favor” to Yoshii and the team.

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