(Reuters) - American League Rookie of the Year finalist Matt Shoemaker will start for the Major League Baseball All Stars against Japan on Wednesday and the LA Angels pitcher expects a playoff-like atmosphere throughout their five-games series.
A contingent of 29 players from MLB arrived in Japan on Sunday along with Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell for the series, which starts at the Kyocera Dome in Osaka on Wednesday.
The All Stars warmed up for the series with an entertaining 8-7 win over a combined Yomiuri Giants/Hanshin Tigers team in an exhibition in front of more than 25,000 fans on Tuesday.
Shoemaker, who was runner-up to the Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu in the AL Rookie vote, said Samurai Japan would provide tough opposition.
“Baseball, that’s their sport, so they’re going to be ready to go,” MLB’s official website quoted Shoemaker as saying.
”The fans are going to make it a lot of fun. The place is going to be packed. It will be like playoff baseball, just without a World Series at the end of it.
“We’re just getting some pride for MLB.”
The MLB All Stars last visited Japan in 2006 when they swept the series 5-0 and with a squad boasting the likes of Yasiel Puig, Robinson Cano and Evan Longoria, as well as a powerful bullpen, Japan will have their work cut out to avoid a repeat.
Farrell, who is leading the MLB All Stars in Japan, said Tuesday’s narrow win was the perfect way to prepare for the series, which moves to Tokyo for three games before winding up at the Sapporo Dome on Nov. 18.
“We were able to get every position player on the field, we were able to go to the bullpen with a number of guys to get to the mound,” he said.
“They put a lot of pressure on us, forced us to make some pitches and make some plays. So for us, the first game here in Japan was probably everything we could’ve asked for from a competitive standpoint.”
Hiroshima Carp starter Kenta Maeda will take the mound against Shoemaker in the first game.
Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Greg Stutchbury