TOKYO -- Before the World Baseball Classic began, Japan manager Hiroki Kokubu handed the cleanup spot in his batting order to Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, the slugging outfielder from the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. One round into the tournament, Tsutsugoh has given Kokubu no reason to regret the decision.Tsutsugoh had yet another hit
TOKYO -- Before the World Baseball Classic began, Japan manager Hiroki Kokubu handed the cleanup spot in his batting order to Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, the slugging outfielder from the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. One round into the tournament, Tsutsugoh has given Kokubu no reason to regret the decision.
Tsutsugoh had yet another hit Friday, in Japan's 7-1 win over China, and with a .364 batting average and two home runs in three games, he was named Most Valuable Player of Pool B.
"I don't send any signs for the cleanup guy," Kokubu said of Tsutsugoh. "His job is just get RBIs, and he just did what exactly I was expecting for him."
:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::
Tsutsugoh homered in each of Japan's first two games of the tournament. His two-run shot helped put away Japan's 11-6 opening win over Cuba, and another two-run shot extended Japan's lead in a 4-1 win over Australia.
Team Japan won each of its three first-round games to top Pool B. Japan will begin second-round play against the Netherlands, Sunday (6 a.m. ET) at Tokyo Dome.
"I don't evaluate which game is more important or less important," Tsutsugoh said. "Every game is just a game."
Tsutsugoh hit 44 home runs in 133 games last season for the BayStars.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com.