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Japanese Baseball (NBP): News, Notes and Where to Watch

 Leif Skodnick - World Baseball Network  |    Jul 1st, 2024 4:21pm EDT

Hanshin Tigers manager Akinobu Okada is tossed in the air by players to celebrate their victory in the Central League championship at the Koshien baseball stadium in Nishinomiya city near Osaka, western Japan 29 September 2005. Now in his second stint managing the Tigers, Okada is two wins away from tying the franchise record set by Sadayoshi Fujimoto in 1968. AFP PHOTO/JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP via Getty Images)

After just one season at Eastern Florida State College, a junior college program in Cocoa, Fla., Carter Stewart signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, an unusual move for a young American pitcher.

Stewart was picked in the first round by the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 MLB Draft, and didn’t sign when Atlanta offered him a bonus below his slot value due to concerns about a wrist injury. He went to Eastern Florida rather than Mississippi State, where he was committed to play Division I baseball, and then packed his bags for Japan.

Finally, it would seem, Stewart has broken through with the Hawks, twirling a sensational seven innings against the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on June 28, allowing six hits, one walk, one run and striking out 13, drawing the attention of Shawn Spradling on X.

Stewart has now thrown parts of three seasons with the Hawks in the Pacific League, going 6-10 with a 3.44 ERA in 151.2 innings pitched. The numbers aren’t stellar, but a couple more starts like his outing against the Fighters could draw the eyes of MLB scouts back to Stewart, who is only 24 years old. He’s signed through 2026, but would have to go through the posting system to return to play in Major League Baseball before then.

The Carp Are Swimming Everywhere – According to a report in the Chugoku Shimbun, Hiroshima Toyo Carp general manager Hayato Shoji and scout Brad Eldred are on a scouting trip in the United States.

The pair will see 11 Triple-A games across the southeast and midwest, according to the newspaper’s report.

Eldred, who played in Major League Baseball for Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Detroit, played for the Carp from 2012-18 and led the NPB Central League in homers in 2014, the same year he was the MVP of the NPB All-Star Game.

It’s Not a Record They Wanted, Anyway – The Chunichi Dragons scored three runs in their 3-0 win against the Yokohama DeNA BayStars on Saturday. It was the first time the club had scored more than two runs in 10 games, and prevented the Dragons from tying a franchise record for consecutive games scoring less than two runs. According to a report in Yahoo! Japan, Dragons manager Kazuyoshi Tatsunama said, “Every day is a battle, like a critical moment, but we want to win and create a good atmosphere.”

A Milestone Approaching For Okada – Hanshin Tigers manager Akinobu Okada is just two wins away from tying the club record of 514 managerial wins held by Sadayoshi Fujimoto, who skippered the Tigers from 1961-68.

Okada managed the Tigers from 2004-08 and came back to Osaka to manage the cats of Koshien Stadium in 2023, leading the club to their first Japan Series title since 1985 in his first season back with the team. His career record with Hanshin is 512-484-24.

Fujimoto went 514-424-24 as manager of the Tigers, and has a career mark of 1655-1445-93 in 29 seasons as a manager in Nippon Professional Baseball. He was the original manager of the Tokyo Kyojin, the franchise that is now known as the Yomiuri Giants.

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Leif Skodnick - World Baseball Network