Samurai Japan made another change in store to their roster for the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Rakuten Eagles catcher Motohiro Shima has a lower body injury and has not participated in any preseason game with his Pacific League team.
The door suddenly opened for Ginjiro Sumitani to take Shima's place on the roster. Sumitani, 29, has been known as one of the best defensive catchers in NPB. He is a hole in the lineup when it comes to hitting, never having a batting average of over .220 in his career.
Sumitani has won the Gold Glove award twice in 2012 and 2015, as well as being part of Japan's national team during the 2013 World Baseball Classic and Premier 12.
The Saitama Seibu Lions finished training camp in both Miyazaki and Kochi prefectures, but Sumitani said he has been "preparing" in the event he could be playing for Samurai Japan.
He officially joined a mix that includes Shota Ono of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and Seiji Kobayashi of the Yomiuri Giants. Sumitani would already have the most experience in international play among the three catchers, but has the worst bat.
Hiroki Kokubo now has a decent option off the bench if he were to pinch hit Kobayashi or Ono for a game, then replace the catcher position with Sumitani for defense. Otherwise, Sumitani should not be a starter or have an at-bat as Ono is a better option with this trio.
The loss of Shima means that Samurai Japan has lost a well-rounded catcher, but added a strong defensive replacement. Sumitani becomes the third Lion to join Samurai Japan's roster as Shogo Akiyama and Kazuhisa Makita became members when the listing was announced.
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