FULL COUNT: Roster moves precede Opening Day

Many Japanese and JA stars like Ichiro Suzuki, Yu Darvish, and Shane Victorino know that they are locks to make their club’s big league roster. Not the case for non-roster invitees and rookie hopefuls like Giants infielder Kensuke Tanaka or Phillies shortstop Troy Hanzawa.

In San Francisco, “Tanaka Time” is on hold. The Giants designated the 31-year-old for assignment with the Fresno Grizzlies on March 22. Tanaka struggled at third and shortstop, even failing to make accurate throws to first from second base, his natural position. Manager Bruce Bochy praised his work ethic, and the time in Triple-A will help him adjust to the majors.

The Giants meanwhile opened the season in Los Angeles on April 1 where they faced closer Brandon League and the Dodgers in a three-game series.

Hanzawa was added to Philadelphia’s Opening Day roster after a good spring. The 27-year-old Hawai‘i native was an Eastern League All-Star for Double-A Reading last year.

Over in Oakland, the Athletics sent veteran lefty Hideki Okajima to Triple-A Sacramento, and placed shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. Thus the only Japanese player active for the A’s home stand against Seattle April 1-4 is Mariners pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma.

In Los Angeles, former starting pitcher Jerome Williams won the Angels’ long reliever job. He will also be called upon to spot start in the event of an injury.

The Texas Rangers released relief pitcher Yoshinori Tateyama on March 22, but re-signed him two days later to a minor league deal. He will start the season in Austin, Texas playing for the Round Rock Express.
Hisanori Takahashi claimed a spot in the Chicago Cubs bullpen as the lefty specialist. His countrymen Kyuji Fujikawa will serve as the setup man.

The Cleveland Indians released pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka on March 24, and re-signed him to a minor league deal. Dice-K allowed 10 hits in eight innings this spring. He starts the year with Indians Triple-A affiliate Columbus Clippers.

Former Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa did not make the Baltimore Orioles’ 25-man roster. The defensive specialist begins the season in Triple-A Norfolk along with rehabbing pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada.
Shortstop Munenori Kawasaki adds depth to the Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A) infield, but will only be called up to the Toronto Blue Jays as an injury fill-in.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco.

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