Sasaki Loki (Chiba Lotte), whose main weapon is a fastball of 164 km per hour and a forkball of 140 km per hour, is polishing up to the third pitch slider. He had already struck out in a row with a slider rather than a forkball in practice games, and after joining the national team, he even received a special lecture from Darvish Yu (San Diego), a master of changing balls.
Sasaki threw 29 pitches in two innings in a practice game against the 스포츠토토 Yakult Swallows on the 15th, ahead of joining the national team. He boasted the majesty of the pitcher of the ‘youngest perfect game’ by unleashing an overwhelming pitch with 5 strikeouts without 4 walks per hit.
In this game, there was a scene where Sasaki used a slider as a strikeout ball rather than a forkball for a fastball. He was an intended strategy fix. After the game, Sasaki explained, “If you look at today’s game, I mainly tried to throw a forkball to left-handed hitters and a slider to right-handed hitters.” Among the 29 pitches, the forkball was still a high proportion with 11 pitches, but the 5 sliders were also powerful. He threw only one forkball to a right-handed hitter.
On the 17th, the first day of the Japanese national team camp, Sasaki received advice on how to use the slider for 40 minutes from Darvish. Darvish is famous for using a variety of pitches, and last year his slider accounted for 19.1% of his pitches. It was the second most frequently thrown ball after cutter (35.2%) and four-seam fastball (25.2%). His batting average was only 0.160.
Japan’s Sankei Sports reported, “Sasaki became a student at ‘Darvish Academy’ with Miyagi Hiroya (Orix).” Sasaki and Miyagi, who were motivated to join the pros, spent time with Darvish using individual training time after the entire team training was over. Sasaki said he was given advice on slider grips and release points.
Sankei Sports explained, “Sasaki’s slider is the next type of pitch after fastball and forkball. Sasaki received guidance from Darvish for 40 minutes. I was able to watch the pitching video on my smartphone and ask for advice.”
“The monster pitcher who achieved the youngest perfect game last year interacted with the national team’s oldest 36-year-old senior from the warm-up stage. Before the catch ball, we also exchanged opinions on the direction of training,” he said. He also received hot attention from officials from the Los Angeles Dodgers team.”