“Chiba Lotte starting pitcher Sasaki will appear as a starting pitcher in the game against Softbank in the first game of the Climax Series First Stage held at ZOZO Marine Stadium on the 14th. Director Masato Yoshii declared, ‘Tomorrow I will go to Sasaki.’”

Chiba Lotte recorded 70 wins, 5 draws, 68 losses, and a winning percentage of .5072 this season, beating third place Softbank (71 wins, 3 draws, 69 winning percentages of .5071) by one margin and taking second place in the Pacific League. Thanks to this, Chiba Lotte will be able to play all games of the Climax Series First Stage, which will last up to three games, at its home stadium.

Sasaki, who was announced as the starting pitcher for the first game, is a special fireballer who is expected to grow into Japan’s best ace. Sasaki, who achieved the youngest perfect game in Japanese professional baseball last year by throwing a fastball with a maximum velocity of over 160 km/h, pitched overwhelmingly this season with 7 wins, 4 losses, and an average ERA of 1.78 in 15 games (91 innings).

However, Sasaki was unable to play in many games this year due to injury. He suffered a finger blister injury early in the season and was unable to pitch for about a month, and after the Softbank game on July 24, he suffered a left internal oblique muscle rupture and had to rest for a long time. He succeeded in returning in the game against Orix on the 10th of last month, but was unable to play again due to fever symptoms ahead of the game against Softbank on the 24th of last month. Afterwards, Sasaki finished the regular season with his last appearance as a Sei match player on the 17th of last month without any additional appearances.

Coach Yoshii said, “Due to the current team situation, there is a shortage of starting pitchers. I think it would be a big help that Sasaki prepared on time. If you pitch, the outcome is inevitable. I hope you do your best. He looked forward to Sasaki’s performance, saying, “Because he is going to be a starting pitcher, I hope he pitches for as long as possible, but I also expect him to do only what he can.”

Meanwhile, SoftBank will use Carter Stewart, who was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft, as the starting pitcher in the first round. Stewart was selected by Atlanta in the first round (8th pick) of the 2018 Major League Baseball draft, but was unable to reach an agreement on the rookie contract amount and turned to Japan, surprising baseball fans by signing a six-year, $7 million contract with Softbank.

He debuted in the first team in 2021 and struggled with 11 games (23⅔ innings), 2 losses, 1 hold, and an ERA of 6.08, but this season he achieved decent results with 3 wins, 6 losses, and an ERA of 3.38 in 14 games (77⅔ innings).


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