2010 Interleague: Swallows’ DH Options

The Birds kicked off Interleague play with a disastrous 0-4 homestand. Starting tomorrow, the team takes their show on the road with two games each against the Seibu Lions and the Lotte Marines. That means for the first time this season, the Swallows will be able to feature a lineup with a designated hitter. The DH position is typically used to get great hitters with glaring defensive liabilities into the game. However, looking down the Swallows’ active roster, I don’t really see any great offensive player that isn’t getting playing time because of their defensive ability. What we do seem to have is a glut of light-hitting fielders who have not gotten regular playing time. I’ll examine some of the players the team might get into the lineup by using the DH spot.

Kazuki Fukuchi & Yasushi Iihara

Assuming that Fukuchi wasn’t held out of the last two games because of injury, and nothing in the press seems to indicate that’s the case, the DH spot give us the opportunity to get both Fukuchi and Iihara in the game. Iihara has managed to fill-in nicely in spot starts, and regular playing time during Fukuchi’s injuries and Guiel’s benchings. Iihara is a well rounded player, without any exceptional talent in any area. The DH would allow the brittle Fukuchi and his amazing legs to get into the in the game without exposing them to the artificial turf of the Seibu Dome and Marine Stadium (Omiya features natural grass). Fukuchi hasn’t been hitting particularly well since his return from injury earlier this month, but without some at bats I don’t see him getting any better. If Fukuchi isn’t ready to go, perhaps we will see Tsuyoshi Ueda get some more at bats. Ueda has parlayed a hot March and April at the farm into semi-regular appearances with the main team.

Shinichi Takeuchi

Takeuchi played well when he started during the D’Antona benching, managing to hit 3 homers and hitting for a decent average. Since D’Antona’s return, Takeuchi has been the first lefty off the bench in pinch hit situations. As a pinch hitter, Takeuchi has been completely ineffective and may benefit from some regular at bats. Historically, Takeuchi has not done well against lefties, as such, he’s only gotten 2 at bats against lefties this season. So don’t expect to see Takeuchi in the starting lineup, DH or otherwise, if the starter is a lefty. If Takeuchi does start, Takada might elect to start him at first, and move D’Antona in the DH spot.

Ryo Yoshimoto & Atsushi Fujimoto

Yoshimoto was a surprise start against his old team over the last two games. The career benchwarmer had a good first game, and collected an RBI on a sac fly in the second game. Prior to those starts, Yoshimoto was 2-for-2 and a Tak-bunt in 3 pinch hit appearances this season. This little run of success might be enough to justify keeping Yoshimoto in the lineup while bringing Fujimoto back into the fold.

Atsushi Kinugawa

Our backup catcher has seen spot duty spelling Aikawa late in games, and occasional at bats as a right-handed pinch hitter. 3 out of Kinugawa’s 4 hits this season have managed to go for extra bases. I don’t really have much else to say about the guy, except to say that he’s the only other player that has registered more than 15 at bats and is currently on the active roster.

I think either Takeuchi, or someone from the crowded outfield platoon will be making the extra start in Pacific League parks. Hopefully multiple at bats will give someone an opportunity to shine, we need it…

Do YOU have any thoughts as to who should be given extra playing time?

About Kozo Ota

Kozo Ota is a third-generation Swallows fan that grew up on Montreal Expos baseball. (You can read more about that here.) When he's not at Jingu, he works as a freelance translator/interpreter to make enough money to go to Jingu. You can find random posts by Kozo on Google+ and Twitter.