This November, Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball will again team up for an All-Star exhibition series in Japan. A team of MLB All-Stars will play six games against a team of NPB All-Stars to help promote and grow the game.
Last month it was reported Marlins manager Don Mattingly would manage the MLB All-Star team in Japan. On Monday, MLB announced the first wave of players who have committed to the event. Here are the first seven players on the roster:
- Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves
- Rhys Hoskins, Phillies
- Yadier Molina, Cardinals
- Carlos Santana, Phillies
- Eugenio Suarez, Reds
- Chris Taylor, Dodgers
- Christian Yelich, Brewers
Santana is a Japan All-Star Series veteran. He was part of the last team MLB sent to Japan back in 2014, when he was still with the Indians. The other six players are all participating in the event for the first time.
Not surprisingly, the first wave of players are all position players. Securing commitments from pitchers will take some more time. Teams and players will want to see how the postseason races (and the postseason itself) play out before committing because no one wants to risk injury with an unsafe workload.
I'm interested to see whether Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani participates in the event. He needs Tommy John surgery and is unable to pitch, but his elbow is healthy enough to hit -- Ohtani is 8 for 15 (.533) with a double, a triple, and three homers in four games since the Tommy Johns surgery recommendation -- and he'd be a huge draw for the Japan All-Star Series.
That said, Ohtani does need a major surgery with a long recovery time, and participating in the Japan All-Star Series would mean pushing that surgery back two full months, delaying his return to the Angels. If it were one or two weeks, maybe it wouldn't be a big deal. Pushing Tommy John surgery back two months to participate in the Japan All-Star Series seems unlikely.
A total of seven games will be played during the 2018 Japan All-Star Series, including one game featuring MLB All-Stars against the Yomiuri Giants, the New York Yankees of NPB. Here are the game dates:
- Nov. 8 vs. Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo
- Nov. 9-11 in Tokyo
- Nov. 13 in Hiroshima
- Nov. 14-15 in Nagoya
The MLB Japan All-Star Series has been played at irregular intervals since 1986. The MLB All-Stars lead the all-time series 48-20, though the NPB All-Stars won three of the five games in 2014. The 2018 event will help serve as a development opportunity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.