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Position Battle: Pitcher

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Position Battle: Pitcher

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For as long as I have been writing, I have been calling for a youth movement in the Hawks organization. In the 2010 season, it seems that some of the youngsters in the organization are ready for prime time, most importantly of which is on the mound.

The first four positions in the rotation seem to be finalized, with Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada, DJ Houlton, and Kenji Ohtonari. There's no guarantee that Wada and Ohtonari will be healthy or effective (respectively).

The final two spots, which would normally be occupied by Kazumi Saitoh and Nagisa Arakaki, are now open considering that Saitoh seemed primed to miss his third straight season with another shoulder surgery, and Arakaki will not be ready in time for the season, although he could come back by May or June.

So who are these young faces that could help the team? First up is 2007 first-round pick, Sho Iwasaki. Iwasaki was 4-2 with a 3.65 ERA in 56 and 2/3 innings down on the farm last year. He only walked 10 in that span, leading me to believe that he has the potential for good control. With only 36 strikeouts over that span though, he looks like he will not blow anybody away. Iwasaki did throw 4 shutout innings in a B-Group game against Junichi Tazawa's former team, ENEOS.

Another pitcher the team has been high on is Shingo Tatsumi, who threw seven innings of scoreless ball in intrasquad games this year. Tatsumi also threw the most innings at ni-gun last year (105 1/3 innings), but he was 6-7 with a 4.87 ERA. He does go for the strikeout, with 80K's in that span, but also 47 walks. His stuff is electric, very much like Shota Ohba, but I really don't think he's 100% ready yet. He will be eventually.

Next up is the former Golden Rookie, Shota Ohba. Ohba seemed to respond after being moved to the bullpen last year, but in the first half of spring camp, he has not been good. He has given up four runs on nine hits in seven innings of work, despite throwing 1,534 pitches in spring camp. He seems to be getting a little too fine, trying not to walk people, but he's also getting behind batters too much.

Two others who are getting consideration are Yuta Ohmine, who threw four shutout innings, striking out six batters against the Lotte Giants. Hideaki Takahashi, who has been good in spot duty, seems has pitched his way back to ni-gun, as he had a bad outing. He walked one batter, hit another, and uncorked a wild pitch in the 5th that led to 3 runs for the Korean team.

As of right now, it looks like Iwasaki and Tatsumi have the inside track on Ohba. Of course, if those two don't work out, then there's always Ohba and Takahashi, but before those, I think that Yasushi Kamiuchi will be the guy to look to for a spot start or two.

The Hawks haven't had a bombastic rookie starter since 2003, when they had Wada win 14 games, pitch a complete-game victory in the 7th game of the 2003 Japan Series, and won the Rookie of the Year.
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