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March 5, 2009

Tatsunori Hara

Shuichi Murata


Q. That was a tough game as an opening game of the 2009 WBC. What was your general impression of tonight's contest as the manager of the National Team?
TATSUNORI HARA: Against China, the pitchers, they pitched very, very well. That's my first impression. We had advance scouting and we knew they are very good pitchers, but they pitched way better than we expect.

Q. Did you feel a lot of pressure, and you won the first international match, what does that mean to you?
TATSUNORI HARA: Finally we start the WBC international matches, that's my general impression.
This is a mixed team called Samurai Japan, and we were united as a team and how we worked as a team; these are the points that I'm paying attention. As a result, our pitching staff, especially starting pitcher for tonight, Yu Darvish, he played great. I am so proud of him.
In a baseball game, the pitcher is always a key for the baseball game. If we don't give up runs, it's a shortcut to get the win. That's how I felt.

Q. These are the international matches and you have a pitching count limit while these games are going on. Do you have any difficulties making adjustments for the pitching counts? And also, tell us about Ichiro, can you think of a reason why you put him as a lead-off hitter?
TATSUNORI HARA: Yes, talking about the pitching limit, it's a good thing, but Darvish only pitched less than 50 pitches, which is good. We have 13 pitchers on our roster, so we sent them for certain situations. That's why we sent six different pitchers tonight.
Well, Ichiro, I don't have that many options for Ichiro. Ichiro should hit in the lead-off spot or third spot. Tonight, we put him on the lead-off spot. He is very good to hit as a third hitter, but I feel the lead-off hitter is the position that gets used the most, and that's why we put him on the lead-off spot.

Q. Tell us about the bottom of the second. You had a man on first, Fukedome walked, Johjima walked and then got the double play. Were you sending him any sacrifice bunts to have the leading score in the second? If you can tell us a little bit about the strategy.
TATSUNORI HARA: Yes, either score runs, or I try to make a big score, try to make a big inning; I don't know what the difference is. All I can say of that situation is hitting, let Johjima hit.
As a result, Johjima got a 4-6-3 double play, but as a result, Johjima hit to the opposite field. So Johjima, so it's good that Johjima didn't pull the ball. At least Johjima is trying to send the runner. As a result, Johjima hit into the double play, so that situation once again, in my mind, I didn't think any sacrifice bunt in that situation.

Q. Tonight against China, you scored only four runs, but throughout the exhibition games, you scored way more than four runs. Did your team feel the pressure of the opening contest, and are you satisfied with the opening contest tonight?
TATSUNORI HARA: Yes, generally, if I am satisfied or not, the Chinese pitchers pitched very well once again. That's No. 1.
We should have scored more than four runs, so I am not satisfied with that result. But, this is an international big match, and some players, teams, including myself, all are very -- it is good that we won the first contest. Although we didn't score big runs, four runs gives us confidence for us in the next game.

Q. I know you have a lot of veteran players, but I wonder how much you see this World Baseball Classic as an opportunity for a young generation of Japanese players led by Darvish to really come into the spotlight and emerge; and also, what do you see as the main difference between these younger players and their style and their attitude from the great Japanese players of the past?
TATSUNORI HARA: First, this is the second annual tournament, and although we don't have the long history, but among the worldwide nation baseball, this tournament means a lot, especially among Japanese people.
Yu Darvish is somebody that is representing the country of Japan and he is the ace pitcher of Japan and it just happens that Darvish is a young, major pitcher, but life goes on and the WBC tournament is going to be happening again and again. In the future, Darvish is going to have another opportunity to pitch at the next coming WBC round.

Q. You won the first game, and the day after tomorrow, you play against either the winning Korean or Chinese Taipei. Probably Korean is coming out we think. Is there any -- what is your thoughts for tomorrow's game, and if there's any adjustment point, tell us, please.
TATSUNORI HARA: This tournament, there's a rule, certain rule; that if we win the first game, the next coming first, next coming second game, is more important. That's how we read the rules.
Yes, we became a winner and in our second game is also a winner of the first game. We do our best to play against our second game.

Q. If Korea is coming, for the next game, everyone is thinking Jong is going to start against Japan. Is there any keys to face him?
TATSUNORI HARA: Well, I'm not supposed to tell. Yes, tomorrow, our next contest is also a winner of the first game. So once we know our opponent officially, then I will tell you.

Q. As a result, team Japan only scored four, and it is such a huge two-run shot, what do you think of your performance tonight?
SHUICHI MURATA: Yes, well, we couldn't score in the first inning. Inabasan and I couldn't get any RBIs, so my second at-bat, there was a man on second.
So I was trying to send the second runner to score. That's all that was in my mind.

Q. You said your form was bad tonight and you made an adjustment; what adjustment did you make? And how was your first taste of international play?
SHUICHI MURATA: Yes, I was off-balance, my first at-bat, I fouled the first ball. It was good news for me that the WBC balls did not carry farther, and although I hit a home run off-balance, so that gives me confidence.
Tonight's contest, yes, we won, so that gives us confidence for tomorrow's second game.

Q. You are always saying that, hey, I want to hit a home run in international matches, and finally, you hit it. Is this a once-in-a-lifetime home run? Was tonight a once-in-a-lifetime big home run?
SHUICHI MURATA: Yes, in the Beijing Olympics, I played in the Beijing Olympics, but all of my memories are bitter, I couldn't do my performance.
So my very first game, I hit a home run, so that result gave me a lot of confidence. So in my next game, I will go with confidence.

Q. You just mentioned the Beijing Olympics, you went 2-for-23 in the Beijing Olympics, and you also told that you have a bitter memory. What did you learn from that experience 2-for-23 experience? What did you learn in that international match?
SHUICHI MURATA: Well, at the Beijing Olympics when I played, I was only trying to win -- I wanted to win, but the result is something I didn't wish at the Beijing Olympics. There was something wrong with my mechanics and I had a lot of regrets, neither hitting or offense, batting and the defense. I have a lot of regrets about the Beijing Olympics.
But Team Japan selected me once again, so they gave me another opportunity, so I am representing Team Japan. Thanks to all of my coaches.
So I am trying to be natural, and all I can say is I wanted to win, but at the same time, I am trying to be myself and trying to be focused by myself. So I am very pleased with what I did tonight.

Q. Throughout the Japanese media, Team Japan, your next game will probably be against Korea, and some Japanese media is saying that Japan wants to win against Korea with a big run difference. Would you prefer to play against Korea, or would you rather be -- which would you prefer to play against your second game?
SHUICHI MURATA: Our next game, either Korea or Chinese Taipei, firstly, as a player, I don't have any preference.
Once we know our opponent, then we start recognizing who we faced against. Once the result is made, then I start taking our next opponent. That's all I can say.

Q. You hit your first international match home run tonight. Did you feel any unique international matches pressure? And also you said that today's result gives you confidence. Did you earn good enough confidence of today's home run, and did you include your hitting skills?
SHUICHI MURATA: Throughout my regular season last year, I won the home run batting title. So generally speaking of home runs, I am proud. I wish I could hit a home run very strongly.
So today's at-bat, I swung off-balance, but the ball carries farther. So if I could stay back and I could approach my swing, the ball carries farther, so I am thinking that my hitting skill is improving. But at the same time, mentally, my strong skill could give me a home run shot.

Q. Your home run and defense was great, congratulations. The home run pitch was the eighth or ninth pitch, and finally Li through a nasty forkball. Did you foul off a lot so that Li has no way to pitch? Do you feel that you are ahead of pitchers, although you fouled seven, eight pitches?
SHUICHI MURATA: Yes, I was chasing the bad pitches sometimes, like high fastballs I swing and miss until two strikes are on. But fortunately, I fouled off, fouled off.
So I am not -- the count was 3-2. It was a down-and-away forkball. The timing was off, but the ball carried well, so that once again gave me confidence.
It is good that I didn't hit a fastball, but a breaking ball. So to myself, the pitch that I hit was a breaking ball, which is good news.

End of FastScripts

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