TOKYO — Atsunori Inaba, manager of the world No. 1 Samurai Japan National Baseball Team since 2017, announced the 28 players he has selected to play against No. 6 Mexico in two WBSC-sanctioned games at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on 9-10 March.

Japan’s roster includes 11 players who will be making their debuts on the nation’s top team.

At a press conference in Tokyo, Inaba said: “This is the final opportunity before the Tokyo [2020] Olympics to test players whom we haven’t seen before. The approach was to form a team looking ahead to the Premier12, which is a pre-fight for 2020. We are going for speed and power.”

The international friendlies will be the first time the two teams will meet following the Final of the WBSC U-23 Baseball World Cup in Barranquilla, Colombia, where Mexico defeated Japan, 2-1, in 10 innings.

“Mexico has a really strong programme,” Inaba said.

In the inaugural edition of the WBSC Premier12 in 2015, Japan defeated Mexico twice, including an 11-1 win in the bronze medal match.

Mexico’s roster has yet to be announced but will be filled with the top professional players from the Mexican Baseball League (LMB) and managed by Dan Firova, the former Washington Nationals bullpen coach and LMB Acereros de Monclova skipper.