Spring training has been in session for a week now, but there are several players missing in action. The Japanese government continues to ban entry into the country to new foreigners (who do not have a visa). Because of this decision, every single foreigner signed to their first deal this past offseason is still waiting for the situation to develop. NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito has contacted the government to request that they loosen the protocol so that players can be in Japan before the season begins. Furthermore, the national baseball team has scheduled two exhibition games (March 5, 6) against a Taiwanese representative squad, but this is also dependent on their entry and ability to clear the quarantine period. It appears that Covid-19 will run interference on baseball in 2022 as well.
One of the foreign players affected by this is the most recent signing of the Yomiuri Giants. Hochi Sports has reported that they have reached a deal with former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim righty Matt Shoemaker. While the deal has not been officially announced by the club, it is speculated that they are working out the final details. Shoemaker would become one of four new Yomiuri Giants foreigners when the deal is finalized. Including returnees Zelous Wheeler, Thyago Vieira and CC Mercedes, this gives the team seven imports on staff. In all, fifteen new imports are expected to join Central League teams, and seventeen new imports will don Pacific League team uniforms for the first time. Most of those names can be found here.
The very first spring training scrimmages will take place tomorrow (February 8). Most NPB teams have their own YouTube channels, and many of them are doing some form of livestreaming during camp. Here are some links, in case you want to take a peek at the action.
Central League: Yakult Swallows / Hanshin Tigers / Yomiuri Giants / Hiroshima Carp (no social media) / Chunichi Dragons / Yokohama DeNA Baystars
Pacific League: Orix Buffaloes / Chiba Lotte Marines / Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles / Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks / Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters / Saitama Seibu Lions
BONUS: Pacific League TV (Japanese) / Pacific League TV (English) / Eleven Sports (primarily farm footage)
So if you’re feeling down about MLB owners not working out a deal with the players, chin up! There is plenty of NPB to watch! Have at it!