Tour through Japan takes place Nov. 5-14
LOS ANGELES -- Akinori Otsuka and Kazuhisa Ishii expect to get a lot of attention in Japan when they play with a team of major leaguers in an exhibition series against Japanese All-Stars starting next week.
Otuska, a reliever with the San Diego Padres, and Ishii, a starter with the Los Angeles Dodgers, will play with a team that includes World Series MVP Manny Ramirez and Boston Red Sox teammate David Ortiz, pitchers Jason Marquis and Ray King of the NL champion St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos outfielder Brad Wilkerson.
"In 1998, I was one of the players on the Japanese team that played the All-Stars," Otsuka said before Saturday's workout at Dodger Stadium. "And ever since that moment, I felt like the next time I played in that tournament I wanted it to be on the American major league team."
The eight-game trip from Nov. 5-14 goes through Fukuoka, Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya and Ishii's hometown of Tokyo.
"I'm really excited," Otsuka said through a translator.
Otsuka and will also be accompanied by Padres manager Bruce Bochy and teammate and fellow pitcher Jake Peavy.
"This has got to be very exciting for him to be going back there," Peavy said. "I'm looking forward to going along and watching all the hoopla that surrounds him and Ishii over there. It should be a neat experience."
Ishii also will have a couple of familiar faces with him on the trip, including Dodgers second baseman Alex Cora and pitching coach Jim Colborn -- who spent four seasons in Japan as a coach with the Orix Blue Wave and five more as Pacific Rim scoring director for the Seattle Mariners before guiding Ishii through his first three big league seasons.
"These guys appreciate it in a different way than our players because they already got to the pinnacle over there before them came here," Colburn said. "It's like climbing Mount Everest -- and then you get to try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Of course, they'll be the centers of attention. It's kind of like the prodigal sons returning with their new weapons."
Ishii is 36-25 with the Dodgers and has a 4.30 career ERA, but was left off the team's postseason roster after struggling down the stretch.
"I'm excited to be going back to Japan," Ishii said through an interpreter. "Hopefully, I can show the Japanese people what I've learned after my three-year experience over here and what I'm able to do."
Otsuka's first big league season as closer Trevor Hoffman's setup man surpassed all the Padres' expectations. He was 7-2 with a 1.75 ERA and struck out 87 in 77 1-3 innings.
"To be honest, I don't think any of us knew he'd be this good," Bochy said. "We didn't know a lot about him, except that he threw strikes and had a lot of success over there. He was a great find. I'd hate to think of there we would have been without him."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press