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March 11, 2009 at 1:14 PM

Ichiro, Johjima sighting

Here’s Ichiro facing TIm Lincecum in his second at-bat today in the third inning, which resulted in a walk. Major thanks to Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune for his help with this photo.
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(That’s Kenji Johjima pictured above during batting practice. Alas, I don’t have a usable picture of Ichiro yet. Ansel Adams, I ain’t. It didn’t help that Ichiro took his batting practice early, before we arrived, and then retreated to the clubhouse).
UPDATE 3:03 P.M.: Pinch-hitting in the sixth inning against Giants’ left-hander Alex Hinshaw, Johjima sliced an RBI single to right, bringing in the fourth run of the inning for Japan. They have now overcome a 4-0 deficit to lead 6-4. Ichiro scored earlier in the inning.
UPDATE 3 P.M.: Ichiro blooped a soft single just over the second baseman in the sixth inning off Justin Miller.
UPDATE 2:30 P.M.: In the fourth inning, Ichiro grounded out softly to second base against lefty Jack Taschner. FYI, Ichiro is hitting .286 (4-for-14) so far in the WBC, after causing near national hysteria by hitting just .130 (3-for-23) in five warmup games. Johjima is at .500 (5-for-10) with a homer in the WBC.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: The final pitching line on Lincecum: 2 1/3 innings, 1 hit, no runs, three walks and five strikeouts. So far this spring, in three outings, he was worked 9 1/3 innings, allowed no runs, two hits, walked four, and struck out 11. Not too shabby. (Edgar Renteria just homered for the Giants, who lead 3-0).
UPDATE 1:50 P.M.: Leading off the third, Ichiro just worked a walk from Lincecum, fighting off a pair of nasty 2-2 pitches on the hands before taking two more balls. He stole second base with one out. Lincecum just issued another walk, and is being removed from the game.
I’m in Scottsdale today (with Ryan Divish of the News Tribune, my chauffeur) watching Team Japan play the Giants. The lure of seeing Ichiro and Kenji Johjima was big, but the clincher was the fact that Tim Lincecum is pitching for the Giants. That trumped a Mariner-Royals game in Surprise for me.
The Japanese team is set up at Scottsdale for a couple of days before heading to San Diego for the second round of the World Baseball Classic, The Korean team, which actually won the Asian pool, is being housed in Peoria. Today’s game is a tuneup for the Japanese, followed by another tomorrow against the Cubs in Mesa.
Ichiro stepped up against Lincecum to lead off the game, and it was no match. He took a ball, then had his bat broken by a Lincecum fastball, grounding out softly to second base. Johjima isn’t in the starting lineup.
More news as it develops. I’m getting a big kick, as always, out of watching Lincecum pitch. To me, he’s the best show in baseball right now. He gave up a single in the first to the No. 2 hitter, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima, but fanned the 3 and 4 hitters, Norichika Aoki and Atsunori Inaba.
About 80 Japanese media are covering the game here, which is nothing compared to the 500 to 600 that covered the first round in Tokyo. “It was chaos,” said one person who was there. Ichiro apparently has been declining all interview requests, participating only in brief group sessions after games. We’ll try to talk to him, but no promises. At any rate, it will be fun talking to Lincecum, who grew up an Ichiro fan and has been looking forward to this meeting.



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