SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. —
Kenta Maeda, who did not pitch on Thursday against the Giants, is scheduled to start Sunday. The 24-year-old right-hander was 14-7 with a 1.53 ERA for Hiroshima in 2012, and led the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA.
Tanaka, who was heavily scouted on Thursday, is lined up to start the WBC title game on Tuesday. The 24-year-old right-hander led the Japanese Pacific League with 19 wins and a 1.27 ERA in 2011, and followed that with a 10-4 record and a 1.87 ERA in 2012 for Rakuten. There already is talk that his contract could be posted for MLB teams to bid on by next winter.
Excellent pitching is nothing new from Team Japan, who won the last two classics in San Diego and Los Angeles behind Daisuke Matsuzaka and Yu Darvish, both of whom later landed big contracts from big league teams.
But the current Team Japan differs in two areas from its championship predecessors: The only player with any major league experience is 37-year-old infielder Kaz Matsui.
“Yes, of course it would be more meaningful (to win a third title without MLB players),” Yamamoto said. “You see these guys growing with more confidence, so I think this is motivating these kids right now.”