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March 6, 2017

Hiroki Kokubo

Tokyo, Japan

Q. Finally you're here at the Tokyo Dome doing the final preparations for the game tomorrow. What do you think of the team right now?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Yes, we are very relaxed at the moment. We're not nervous at all.

Q. And what about your personal feelings?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Well, of course, I'm very excited about the game, but the game is only tomorrow. Of course, the Japanese team, we'll try to win the game tomorrow.

Q. What kind of game do you have to present tomorrow in order to beat Cuba?
HIROKI KOKUBO: We had pre matches for preparations, and we could see that the team is very well prepared. We have to talk to each other. We have very good players in good condition right now, so it's important to select well, and then prepare our strategy for the game tomorrow.

Q. Cuba has just finished training, and at the press conference, the manager said that Entenza will be the starting pitcher tomorrow. Can you tell us who is going to be the starting pitcher for tomorrow's game?
HIROKI KOKUBO: That's Ishikawa.

Q. What do you expect from him tomorrow?
HIROKI KOKUBO: He's a very complete player, and tomorrow, he will show his good points. That's enough for me. He has his own style of pitching, and that's why I chose him to be the first one to start this competition.

Q. In today's practice, Akiyama was not seen amongst players. What happened to him?
HIROKI KOKUBO: He's resting to recover from a dead ball, and for tomorrow's game, he will be okay.

Q. In five games to prepare for this competition, you experimented with a lot of things, and you could try very good things for your team. What did you get from them?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Yes, we had very good experiences. I have some ideas in my head, but I will think a little bit more.

Q. Well, tomorrow, starts the way to be the best team of the world. Tell me about your motivation.
HIROKI KOKUBO: Yeah, to be the first in the world, is very important to win the first match to start this competition on the right foot. So that's why we will try to win the game tomorrow.

Q. The Cuba team, they are very fast. They run fast, and they can use well their hands and their legs. So do you have any strategy prepared for them?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Well, the first batter, it's important to use him well, to think how to use him. In the preparation matches that we had, the results didn't come out as expected. But, we expect him to swing very strongly, so we have to be careful.

Q. In 2013, the Japanese team lost in the semifinals, and after that, you were given the job and the national team structure was overhauled, and all the teams were brought under the same organization, with you at the top. And now, three years, four years later, can you describe the process of how you think you've grown as a manager and how you've prepared yourself for the WBC, since this is the tournament that you were hired to win?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Well, of course, in today, we have some members from that time, working together for three years, we could define some members, and then we traveled. I could say as a manager, I grew up a little, but just by looking at the results, the results can tell a better story than I can.

Q. Are you going to really define the team for this competition? The first game starts tomorrow. Did you do many changes yesterday from today, or will you change anything else for tomorrow?
HIROKI KOKUBO: Well, the third pitcher, Tanaka -- the first game is a very nervous game, so I think it's important to have a good combination and have everybody relaxed.

Q. When you're playing against Cuba, comparing to Taiwan and South Korea, do you give more input, or do you prefer to start the game and fill it?
HIROKI KOKUBO: I think both are important, and tomorrow, when the game really starts, and we feel how the game is going, then you have all the data, also, to think and to give you ideas of what to do, just in case you have any problem or anything doesn't go as expected.

Q. For the first game tomorrow, what do you expect the Japanese team to show the world?
HIROKI KOKUBO: I think the quality of the pitchers, the Japanese pitchers, will be seen tomorrow by everybody. Well, that's it; the power of our pitchers.

About the batters, whatever happens, they just have to bat as well as they can. Of course, everybody will try to do their best, and this is obvious. Besides that, it's going to be a very nervous game, because it's the first game of the competition. So we'll see who is playing as always and who is not going to control their emotions very well.

Q. Tomorrow's starting pitcher, can you tell us what you think of that player?
HIROKI KOKUBO: I have an idea of the starting pitcher, but of course they have a strategy and they have another eight or nine pitchers. So the left-handed pitchers, and the right-handed pitchers, they have different qualities. So if they come with eight or nine pitchers, it's because they have an idea of how they are going to use them, and we are going to react according to the situation.

Q. I wanted to know, it would seem that of the three games in this round, the Cuba game might be the most challenging. Do you feel that, and second, how do you feel about beginning with what could be a very challenging game?
HIROKI KOKUBO: The game against Cuba will be the most important of the round, I think. Also, because it's the first game, so the first games of every competition is a very nervous game, and they don't usually go as normal as they should.

So it's very important to play and to keep calm and do our best, do whatever we can. If we start this competition with a good start, then we will be able to overcome any difficulties.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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