NPB to open season Friday and take 3-week summer break for Olympics

NPB to open season Friday and take 3-week summer break for Olympics
25/03/2021
NPB announced that no extra-innings will be played during the 2021 season. Teams are planning to allow up to 10,000 fans to watch games.

The 2021 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season is set to open on Friday, 26 March. Three games are scheduled both in the Central and in the Pacific League.

Four-time defending champions Fukuoka Softbank Hawks will open the season on home turf at the PayPay Dome against the Chiba Lotte Marines. Shuta Ishikawa will be their opening day starter.

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The Hawks are still everybody's pick as the Pacific League favourites. Reigning MVP Yuki Yanagita and Ryoya Kurihara will provide the power. Ukyo Shuto, who stunned the world with his speed during the WBSC Premier12 2019, is out to improve upon his impressive 50 steals in the 103-game 2020 campaign.

Masahiro Tanaka's return after seven years in Major League Baseball (MLB) makes the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles a major contender, together with the Chiba Lotte Marines, the second-place team in 2020.

The Saitama Seibu Lions hope to see sluggers Hotaka Yamakawa and Tomoya Mori rebound after a disappointing 2020 campaign.

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The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants are the perennial favourites in the Central League. They earned two consecutive pennants and will count again on ace Tomoyuki Sugano. The 2020 MVP returned to the Giants after turning down several MLB offers.

The 2020 second-place finishers, Hanshin Tigers, added rookie Teruaki Sato to improve their lineup. They also added Mel Rojas, a 40-home run hitter in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), but the slugger is stuck outside Japan due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The Hiroshima Toyo Carp may be in the mix if they can improve their bullpen. Rookie Ryoji Kuribayashi has earned the closer's job during Spring Training. WBSC Premier12 MVP Seiya Suzuki will lead their offence.

The 2021 NPB season will begin interleague play on 25 May. The All-Star Game is scheduled for 16 July. The season will then come to a stop until 13 August during the Tokyo Olympics.

The Climax Series will start on 30 October. The Japan Series will open on 13 November.

NPB announced that no extra-innings will be played during the 2021 season.

Since the state of emergency for Tokyo and three nearby prefectures was lifted, teams are planning to allow up to 10,000 fans to watch games.


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