Hiroto Takahashi (21), a right-handed pitcher for the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese professional baseball team, hit a fastball of 158 km last year. He changed the highest speed of a Japanese pitcher in the Chunichi club in his first year in the first team. He pitched without hesitation, befitting the first pick in the rookie draft.
After staying in the second team in 2021, his first year as a professional, he started the season in the first team in 2022. After opening as a starting pitcher, Takahashi earned his first professional win on April 7 against the Yakult Swallows. He gave up 6 hits, 5 strikeouts and 3 runs in 6 innings, giving up 3 runs in 2 games as a first-team start, and had a quality start (6 or more innings and 3 earned runs or less). He faced Munetaka Murakami, the 4th hitter of the Yakult, three times, recording one walk and one strikeout without a hit.
In April of last year, Rocky Sasaki (22, Chiba Lotte Marines) shook the Japanese professional baseball by achieving the youngest perfect game, and Takahishi also came close to the record. On July 29 last year, he started in the Hiroshima Carp away game and recorded no hits and no runs until one out in the 8th inning. At his teenage age, he could look to a no-hit, no-run. But it was there. After one death in the bottom of the 8th inning, opponent No. 7 Kaito Kozono hit a double and was replaced. 110 pitches.
He appeared in 19 games, going 6-7 with a 2.47 earned run average. He has an outstanding record. He struck out 134 in 116⅔ innings pitched. He had a 10.34 strikeout rate, the highest among pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched. He finished third in strikeouts in the Central League despite not filling the required innings.
National team coach Hideki Kuriyama (61) was watching him. Takahashi was selected for the national team in November last year. He came out as the second pitcher in the fifth inning of an evaluation match against the Nippon Ham Fighters, and pitched a good pitch with 3 hits and 2 strikeouts in 3 innings. Even before his national team debut, he was impressive.
Born in August 2002, Takahashi has once again been in the spotlight recently. He was included in the final list of the Japanese national team for the World Baseball Classic (WBC) announced by coach Kuriyama on the 26th. He placed on the 15 list alongside top pitchers in major league and Japanese professional baseball, including Shohei Ohtani (29, LA Angels), Yu Darvish (37, San Diego Padres), and Yoshinobu Yamamoto (25, Orix Buffaloes).
Takahashi is the ‘youngest’ of the Japanese national team, the youngest player. It is said that it is the first time since Masahiro Tanaka (35, Rakuten Eagles) in 2009 that he participated in the WBC in his third year of high school.
He said on the official website of the national team, “I will do my best to win. I want to learn a lot from my seniors and use them in my baseball life.”
On the 30th and 31st, Takahashi pitched in the bullpen with the WBC official ball for two days in a row.