Hanshin lit up the scoreboard to the tune of an NPB-high 733 runs last year and came within a game of winning the pennant.
The Tigers will probably take a step back at the plate, but just approaching their 2010 totals will make this a lineup to be reckoned with.
Takashi Toritani and Keiichi Hirano played well above what their career numbers would’ve suggested last year, both catching lightning in a bottle. Toritani’s improvement wasn’t as drastic as Hirano’s and he very well could hover around his 2010 production (.301, 104 RBIs).
The core of the lineup, Matt Murton, Craig Brazell and Takahiro Arai all return intact and should produce.
Injuries to Kenji Johjima and Tomoaki Kanemoto looked serious when spring camp broke, but the nearly monthlong delay in starting the season has given both time to get much farther down the road to recovery.
On the mound, Yasutomo Kubo won a career-high 14 games last year, but he also threw 208 1/3 innings, including the postseason, after never before topping 151 1/3. So the Tigers will have to monitor his condition while hoping 2010 was a sign of things to come.
Atsushi Nomi is healthy again and will head the rotation after a good, but brief, 2010 season. Jason Standridge has proven he could be a solid piece of the puzzle, while manager Akinobu Mayumi will hope Randy Messenger and Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi produce at the back end.
The bullpen was upgraded with the addition of free-agent Hiroyuki Kobyashi, who will form a nice tandem with Tomoyuki Kubota with Kyuji Fujikawa closing things out.
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