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Baseball: Lotte's perfect-game pitcher Sasaki set to start Friday

Lotte Marines pitcher Roki Sasaki plays catch at a training session at Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba on May 2, 2022. (Kyodo)

CHIBA, Japan (Kyodo) -- Roki Sasaki, whose 19-strikeout April 10 perfect game attracted worldwide attention, will make his next start Friday after an 11-day break, Lotte Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi revealed Monday.

    "That's the plan, more or less," Iguchi said Monday when Sasaki worked out with the Marines' other starting pitchers at the Pacific League club's home park, Chiba's Zozo Marine Stadium east of Tokyo.

    The 20-year-old was dropped from the active roster on April 25. At the time, Iguchi indicated he had planned to give Sasaki a rest from the rotation at some point in the spring.

    On Monday, the pitcher sounded eager to return to competition.

    "I think my condition is good. I want to prepare well so I'll be able to pitch well late into games," he said.

    Sasaki followed his perfect game with eight perfect innings on April 17. The following week, however, he showed signs of fatigue. Although he earned the win, Sasaki made his quickest exit of the season, leaving after five innings, and was deactivated the next day.

    On Saturday, Sasaki threw a 30-pitch bullpen, his first pitches since that last start.

    "My condition is better than before my last game, as is my state of mind," he said. "My body's recovering more quickly (from my starts) than last year."

    The youngest player to pitch a perfect game in Japanese pro baseball, Sasaki is now 3-0 in five starts with a 1.50 ERA over 36 innings. His 60 strikeouts lead both of Japan's major leagues by a good margin.

    "Compared to last year, I've been able to pitch more innings per game, while the quality has also been better," he said. "I want to keep that going."

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