Pitcher Roki Sasaki, 21, will start for Japan in the WBC semi-finals
MIAMI — Roki Sasaki, potentially the best non-major league pitcher in the world, will take the ball for Japan in their World Baseball Classic semifinal game against Mexico from LoanDepot Park on Monday, a Japanese manager Hideki Kuriyama announced after his team’s training. Sunday.
Sasaki, 21, posted a 1.95 ERA in 212⅔ career innings for Nippon Professional Baseball, striking out 260 and walking 42 while smashing batters with a 100+ mph fastball and a devastating splitter.
Last April, while playing for the Chiba Lotte Marines, Sasaki threw 17 consecutive perfect innings, striking out 52 consecutive batters in the process. Sasaki struck out 19 in a perfect game – the first in Japan’s top professional league since 1994 – and was retired after eight perfect innings in the ensuing start. The next time he took the mound, he returned a hit on the first pitch.
Sasaki, who will face Team Mexico left-hander Patrick Sandoval, allowed an unearned run in 3⅔ innings in a rout against the Czech Republic earlier in the World Baseball Classic on March 11. Sasaki has said he’s keen on playing in the major leagues, but there’s no indication when – or if – his team will post him.
“He’s very young, if you look at age, but he’s a very talented pitcher,” Kuriyama said through an interpreter.