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Guthrie seeks MLB's first win in Japan All-Star Series

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

TOKYO -- Few members of Major League Baseball's Japan All-Star Series team appreciate this trip more than Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. A fourth-generation Japanese-American, Guthrie met a group of his relatives for the first time this week, and he talks openly of one day playing in Nippon Professional Baseball.

But to date, Guthrie's experience in Japan has revolved around off-field activities -- visiting family, touring the historic city of Kyoto, basking in the culture. Today, Guthrie will finally have a chance to take the mound, opposite Samurai Japan right-hander Takahiro Norimoto at the Tokyo Dome in Game 3 (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV). MLB will be looking to win its first game of the five-game series.

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TOKYO -- Few members of Major League Baseball's Japan All-Star Series team appreciate this trip more than Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. A fourth-generation Japanese-American, Guthrie met a group of his relatives for the first time this week, and he talks openly of one day playing in Nippon Professional Baseball.

But to date, Guthrie's experience in Japan has revolved around off-field activities -- visiting family, touring the historic city of Kyoto, basking in the culture. Today, Guthrie will finally have a chance to take the mound, opposite Samurai Japan right-hander Takahiro Norimoto at the Tokyo Dome in Game 3 (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV). MLB will be looking to win its first game of the five-game series.

View Full Game Coverage

"Playing in front of the Japanese fans makes the baseball game be more enjoyable and more fun," Guthrie said. "They're very involved. They appreciate all of the plays, both for the home team as well as the visiting team, which is very appreciated. So it is a nice honor to play in front of great fans that love baseball."

Unlike most of the MLB pitchers on tour, who spent October and November throwing side sessions to keep their arms limber, Guthrie enters today's game closer to regular form. Having started twice in the World Series and once in the American League Championship Series, Guthrie last pitched on Oct. 29. A few bullpen sessions were all he needed to keep his arm in shape.

What about the other guys?
When Samurai Japan constructed its roster, it eschewed several of the national team's longtime veterans in favor of younger, less experienced players. The idea was to prepare this group for the 2017 World Baseball Classic, which very well may feature Norimoto.

At 23 years old, the right-handed Norimoto is coming off his second season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. He threw 202 2/3 innings, posted a 3.02 ERA and generally established himself as one of the top handful of pitchers in Japan.

"We don't know much about their pitchers or their players, but we understood coming over here that they had quality players and they had a quality team," Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. "Being able to beat us that first game, I think, kind of showed us that the talent level is on par with us. It's a challenge. It's definitely a challenge."

More Morneau
Though manager John Farrell's All-Star team is loaded with natural first basemen, Justin Morneau has started each of the first two games at that position. Now that Morneau has a two-run homer on his stat sheet, expect him to continue receiving significant playing time -- even if Chris Carter, Lucas Duda or Carlos Santana steals a spot start.

That's just fine by Morneau, one of the first players to volunteer for the Japan trip after MLB announced it in June.

"You come out to take batting practice and the fans are lined up 10 deep," Morneau said. "It's like a playoff atmosphere. It's like an All-Star Game. Every game's been like that. It's been fun to be able to be a part of that."

Japan All-Star Series schedule
• Exhibition: MLB 8, Hanshin-Yomiuri 7 | Box
• Game No. 1: Japan 2, MLB 0 | Box
• Game No. 2: Japan 8, MLB 4 | Box
• Today: Game No. 3 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
• Sunday: Game No. 4 at Tokyo Dome, Tokyo (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)
• Monday: Travel day
• Tuesday, Nov. 18: Game No. 5 at Sapporo Dome, Sapporo (7 p.m. JT/5 a.m. ET)
• Wednesday, Nov. 19: Travel day
• Thursday, Nov. 20: Exhibition game vs. Samurai Japan, Okinawa Cellular Stadium, Okinawa (6 p.m. JT/4 a.m. ET)

MLB Network will broadcast all seven games of the Japan All-Star Series, and MLB.TV subscribers in the U.S. and around the world can watch live and on-demand streams of every game as well.

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo.

Jeremy Guthrie, Justin Morneau