Young Stars Struggle in Second Team After Short Pitching Stints and Repeated Lateness | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Young Stars Struggle in Second Team After Short Pitching Stints and Repeated Lateness

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Nebo still has major issues with his control of the ball.

It was a hard-hitting game.

On April 2nd, in the Western League game against the Hanshin Tigers, Akira Neo (23) of the Chunichi Dragons started but couldn’t last beyond the second inning, allowing four runs and getting knocked out. He pitched 1 and 1/3 innings, giving up four walks and five hits.


“It became evident that his control issue, which has been a challenge, hasn’t improved. He repeatedly walks batters, often leading to bases loaded situations, showing no stability at all. Nezu, who says he spends his holidays reading books all the time, has an extremely serious personality. Once he starts worrying, he tends to get lost in his thoughts. He himself reflects that his performance on the 2nd isn’t an excuse,” a team official said.

Chunichi’s first-team starting rotation is solid with Yuya Yanagi, Hideaki Wakui, Cristopher Mercedes, and Shinnosuke Ogasawara. With Neo struggling with a high ERA in the minors (as of April 10th), there’s no opportunity for him to break into the first team.

“Neo has a fastball of 150 km/h, and his breaking balls like sliders and forks are top-notch. However, he has mental challenges in controlling his emotions. Even though he throws excellent pitches in the bullpen, he often struggles with walks once on the mound. If he can’t show consistency without actually pitching, the coaching staff would find it risky to use him in the first team,” the same source added.


“That’s it.”

Nezu has only been transitioning to pitching from being a two-way player with fielding for two years. We should watch his growth with a long-term perspective.

Another promising young player who is struggling in the minors is Yuto Akihiro (21) of the Yomiuri Giants, who recorded double-digit home runs last year.

“In the preseason games, he had a batting average of .125, and his performance in the minors has also been in the low .200s. Manager Shinnosuke Abe seems to be expecting power hitting from his 2-meter-tall physique, but Akihiro himself is focused on improving his batting average. There might be a discrepancy between what the coaching staff wants, hoping for more power hitting, and the direction Akihiro is taking.

Also, Manager Abe emphasizes themes like self-sacrifice and dedication, demanding discipline from the players. Akihiro overslept and was late for official team events twice during the last offseason. Manager Abe expressed discomfort, saying, ‘Maybe I should send him down to the third team.’ Perhaps to mold Akihiro into a gentleman befitting the Giants’ slugger, they are deliberately being strict with him, hoping he will change his lifestyle. When asked about the reason for dropping Akihiro to the minors, Manager Abe bluntly said before the season started, ‘Because he didn’t produce results. That’s all,’” said a sports newspaper reporter.

Expectations come with tough love. However, no matter how much support surrounds him, whether he can flourish in the professional world ultimately depends on his efforts and mindset.

  • PHOTO Kyodo News

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