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Updated: March 6, 2018
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2018 by Marco Stoovelaar

(Story by Marco Stoovelaar; Photos courtesy of Riki Saito/Neptunus)

Neptunus adds Japanese lefthander to pitching-staff

ROTTERDAM (Neth.) - Curaçao Neptunus has added 24-year old lefthanded Japanese Riki Saito to its pitching-staff for this season, the club announced on Tuesday (March 6). It is expected that Saito will join the Rotterdam-squad somewhere next month, in time to participate in the annual In Memoriam Charles Urbanus, Sr. Tournament in Bussum. The event traditionally takes place a week before the start of the regular season, which opens this year on Thursday, April 26.

...Riki Saito...
(© Photo: Riki Saito)
Saito is a wellcome addition to the pitching-staff of the reigning Dutch champion. A few weeks after last year transfer-period ended on November 1 last year, two pitchers left the team. First, righthander Kevin Kelly decided to play this season for Rimini in Italy. Shortly thereafter, righthander Jan Tomek informed the club that he is returning home to the Czech Republic, but he will pitch for Munich-Haar Disciples in Germany this year.

Kelly, who was mostly used as a reliever in the past, moving into the starting rotation last year after Orlando Yntema was sidelined through the end of July due to health problems and recovering from surgery. Tomek was scheduled to pitch for Tridents, the second team of Neptunus, but he was then added to the main squad as a reliever. Halfway the season, the club announced that an American pitcher was to join the team, but in the end, that fell through.

,,We surely can use an additional arm in the bullpen. Riki is lefthanded and that's ideal for us'', Head Coach Ronald Jaarsma said of the addition of Saito. Besides Saito, starter Diegomar Markwell is the lone other lefthander in the Neptunus-staff. Jaarsma added: ,,Last year, we were just too late to add another pitcher, but now, we're in time. Especially since we will play in a strong pool during the European Champions Cup, we surely needed an extra arm.'' From June 6 through 10, Neptunus will be the organisor of the event at its stadium in Rotterdam.

In his home country, Riki Saito pitched for the baseball-team of Tezukayama University in the city of Nara. After his college-career, he also pitched in Independent Leagues in both Japan and Taiwan.

...Riki Saito pitching for Asian Islanders...
(© Photo: Riki Saito)
In Taiwan, Saito recently pitched for Asian Islanders. Pitching for that same team was 25-year old righthander Shogo Nakashima, who this season will be the new Japanese pitcher for De Glaskoning Twins, which also plays in the highest Dutch league. Nakashima briefly pitched in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), the Japanese Major League, for Yakult Swallows in 2016 (3 games) and 2017 (2 games).

Asian Islanders is an international baseball-team compiled of several foreign players. Besides Japan, players also came from South Korea, the USA, Venezuela, Finland and Belgium. In January and February, the Islanders played a series of 17 exhibition games against teams from universities and the Industrial League, as well as two teams from the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL), which is the highest professional league in Taiwan.

It marks the first time that Neptunus will have a pitcher from Japan on its roster. But Saito will not be the first Japanese player in a Neptunus-uniform. In 2006, outfielder Yuji Nerei played for Neptunus.

(March 6)

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