After all, there’s a good reason why the top speed was only listed as “160 kilometers.” “Perfect Monster” Roki Sasaki (Chiba Lotte Marines) drops out of the lineup. It was a nightmare from last year.
Sasaki made a start against the SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball 2023 at ZOZO Marine Stadium in Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, Japan, on Sept. 24 and threw 93 pitches over six innings, allowing four runs (one earned) on four hits, nine walks and one strikeout.
Sasaki’s last start of the first half came on April 12 against the Orix Buffaloes. In that start, Sasaki threw 104 pitches in seven innings, allowing three hits, no walks, 14 strikeouts, and one run (one earned). He then took the mound for the All-Star Game on the 19th after a whopping 6 days of rest, throwing 18 pitches in 1 inning, allowing 1 hit, 2 walks, and no runs, again on 4 days of rest. The four days off seemed like it wouldn’t affect his pitching, as he hadn’t fanned many batters. But that was a mistake.
Sasaki pitched a quality start (6 innings, 3 earned runs or less), allowing just one run over six innings while striking out nine. It was clearly a quality start that could have been a winner if the offense had gotten on track. But there was one thing that didn’t seem right about Sasaki. His fastball was only hovering around 160 kilometers. This seemed to be a problem, as Sasaki’s personal best was 165km, and he also threw a lot of strikes.
According to Japan’s Sportichi Annex, manager Masato Yoshii said in an interview after the game, “I only had four days off after the All-Star Game, so I was thinking about 100 pitches. He didn’t feel very good, but he threw six good innings.” While giving Sasaki a thumbs-up for his pitching, he seemed to shrug it off, saying, “It’s okay because there are a lot of things going on in my mind as to why I didn’t get a fastball.”
However, Sasaki’s physical condition was still a problem. On the 25th, according to multiple Japanese media outlets, Sasaki was removed from the first team before the game. The reason: a problem with his left adductor (side) muscle. According to Japan’s Daily Sports, Yoshii explained, “Sasaki was written off due to a problem with his left adductor muscle,” and the outlet added, “His return is expected to take two months at the earliest. If the symptoms persist, he could be out for the season.”
Sasaki didn’t seem to have any problems until he finished pitching. “I think it was yesterday when I threw 90 pitches. I think he felt a little bit of pain against the last batter, and after that, he threw four more pitches and came back to the bench, and the pain got worse and worse.” The exact name of Sasaki’s injury is a left adductor muscle tear. 꽁머니
Last year’s “nightmare” is starting to come back to haunt him. Sasaki was on a roll early last year, throwing a perfect game, when he was pulled from the lineup with blisters on his fingers at the end of the first half. He returned to the mound after more than a month off, but was unable to replicate his first-half performance. This year, Sasaki was again sidelined by blisters, this time affecting his adductor muscles, and he was once again in danger of failing to reach 10 wins for the first time in his career. Two years in a row of late-season injuries does not paint a good picture.
Yoshii said, “First of all, we can’t play unless we treat the injury. I’m going to rest for a while. I’ve injured my side myself, but even if I think it’s healed, I still feel a sense of dread.” “I hope he can come back this season, but it really depends on Sasaki’s recovery, so I think it will take two months at the earliest, and longer at the latest. If that happens, I think this season will be difficult,” Yoshii said.
The Chiba Rodeo are in second place in the Pacific League with 45 wins, four draws and 32 losses for a winning percentage of 0.584 after 25 games. Only three games separate them from the first-place Oryx Buffaloes. At this rate, the team is poised to not only win the Pacific League title, but also the Japan Series “throne. “I don’t like to say it, but there’s a saying that crisis is opportunity,” Yoshii said. I will give the young players a chance. I’ll do my best,” he said, hiding his bitterness.
There’s no denying that Yoshii’s talent is coveted in the major leagues, from his perfect game to his 165-kilometer fastball. However, he suffered from blisters last year and this year, as well as a ruptured adductor muscle, and the image of a ‘glass body’ is gradually emerging.