Boston's new star puts on a Classic show

March 23rd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Ian Browne's Red Sox Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Masataka Yoshida will make his debut for the Red Sox on March 30 when he bats cleanup against the Orioles at Fenway Park, but the Japanese star had his coming-out party during the international showcase that is the World Baseball Classic.

In that high-voltage environment, Yoshida got a chance to show off his production and plate discipline to fans who hadn’t seen him play. Japan defeated the United States, 3-2, in the championship game and Yoshida finished the tournament with a WBC record 13 RBIs.

Most dramatically, Yoshida belted a game-tying three-run homer in the seventh inning of the semifinal round against Mexico on Monday night, making Japan’s thrilling walk-off win possible. In the same game, Yoshida threw out a runner at the plate when Mexico had a chance to extend its lead to three runs in the top of the eighth. And in the bottom of the ninth, Yoshida followed Shohei Ohtani’s leadoff double with a walk, helping to set up the walk-off, two-run double by Munetaka Murakami.

When the Red Sox signed Yoshida to a five-year, $90-million contract that included a $15.4 million posting fee, there were anonymous team executives around the game who questioned the signing. Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has been steadfast in his belief that the club’s valuation of Yoshida was on the money. It will take a while to find out if he was right, but early signs are encouraging.

“He’s a good player. And this isn’t about [people] doubting us or whatever. Everyone is going to judge us for the next five years, right? You talk to anyone who played with or against him in Japan, they feel like he’s going to [thrive] here,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.

“Just watching the tournament, with all due respect to everyone in that group, he’s been probably the MVP of the Japanese team. That at-bat [for the three-run homer] was great. Also, the patience. Going the other way with two strikes. The walk. The throw from left field. I’m not saying he’s the whole package, but I can say he’s a good baseball player.”

Given that Yoshida will be playing in the pressurized market of Boston, it was a good sign for him to flourish the way he did on the stage that is the WBC.

“He’s not afraid. This guy, he’s very stylish,” Cora said. “I don’t think he’s going to shy away from the spotlight. It seems like he can slow down the game too, which is very important. We’re very proud of him.”