I did manage to have a bit of fun and watch some baseball despite the circumstances, including a trip to Nagoya for a ni-gun game. I will have a post on that some time soon.
Quite a lot of significant news concerning the Dragons happened since I last posted:
- Yomiuri clinched the CL regular-season championship last week ending Chunichi's streak of two consecutive.
- The Dragons locked up second place in the CL, giving them home-field advantage in the first round of the Climax.
- Yakult took control of the race for third place and now lead Hiroshima by 6.5 games.
- Probably the most important happening, was when Kazuki Yoshimi injured the elbow in his throwing arm during a game. The injury will almost certainly prevent him from pitching in the upcoming Climax Series, totally altering the Dragons' chances for a return to the Japan Series. Without Yoshimi, the Dragons main starting options will be Soto and Yamauchi for sure and some combination of Kawakami, Iwata, Yamamoto and Nakata. Junki Ito pitched well in his first ichi-gun start of the year, he and Yudai Ono are also options but have far less experience than the other starters listed. So a tough road gets even tougher, but don't count the Dragons out yet, they've pulled off some unexpected things in the past and have competed well against the Giants all year. Of course they will have to get past Yakult first, which won't be easy either.
- Masa Yamamoto had two consecutive successful starts and may have won himself an opportunity to start one of the Climax Series games. He may also be used in relief instead, honestly I would feel more comfortable with him being used in some kind of relief role.
- 19 year-old rookie Kentaro Nishikawa made his ichi-gun starting debut on Sep. 23rd against Hanshin. He gave up only one run on one hit, a solo HR to Takashi Toritani, over 5 innings of work.
- Kosuke Fukudome's destination for next season has been in the news frequently, with Hanshin, Chunichi and Yokohama listed as the teams most likely to acquire him. Chunichi has stated that they aren't willing to overpay to get him and hope that he will choose to return for some reason other than money. I have a feeling that he will end up in Hanshin, they are desperate to get better, and will probably do what it takes monetarily to get him. They are also closer to competing than Yokohama, and Fukudome has some ties to Osaka. I definitely wouldn't be opposed to Kosuke returning to Chunichi. The Dragons need to get younger, but right field is still an unresolved position. Fukudome could be given an opportunity there until one of the younger players proves they can do better. It is questionable how much Fukudome will produce when back in the NPB, he hasn't played everyday the last few years and the NPB introduced the new ball during his absence, so it's unlikely he will produce like he did when he was an MVP in Japan, that's part of the reason Chunichi won't overpay. If I had to choose though, my first hope would be that Ryosuke Hirata will take the offseason more seriously this year and be in shape and ready to be a quality everyday outfielder next year.