Baseball: New Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida to play for Japan at WBC

New Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida will participate in the World Baseball Classic from March 8-21, Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama said Thursday.

The 29-year-old, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Red Sox in December, will compete in the WBC in the first round in Tokyo, according to the manager, who answered questions in Kitahiroshima, just next to Sapporo.

Masataka Yoshida. (Essonne News)

« We’re going to ask him to wear the Japan shirt, » Kuriyama said. “We won’t have position players join us halfway (from the semi-finals in the United States), and we’ve asked them to join us as soon as possible. »

Kuriyama revealed that he was initially hesitant to call Yoshida before his first season in MLB, but changed his mind after talking to the former Orix Buffaloes star and realizing his desire to participate.

« I thought I shouldn’t choose Masataka for his own good, » Kuriyama said. “(But) after he showed so much spirit, there is no choice but to ask him to lend me a hand. »

Yoshida hit .335 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs in 119 games for the Japan Series champions last year.

His participation in the WBC marks a departure from the behavior of past Japanese stars traveling overseas for the first time, since participation in the WBC may cause players to miss most of the MLB preseason.

Two former stars who played for Japan in the WBC, pitcher Koji Uehara in 2006 and catcher Kenji Johjima in 2009, both chose to spend their first MLB preseason on their new teams: Uehara with the Baltimore Orioles in 2009 and Johjima with the Seattle Mariners in 2006.

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