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Oakland A’s Japan trip: Everything you need to know

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Schedule, roster, photos, and more!

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Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

The Oakland A’s are officially in Japan, where they will begin the 2019 MLB regular season against the Mariners. Here’s a quick roundup of everything you need to know about the trip.

First off, the big picture. The A’s are there to play four games, including two exhibitions and two real MLB contests. Here’s the schedule for those matchups, listed by when they’ll happen here in the Pacific Time Zone. Get ready to choose between sleep or baseball this week, Athletics Nation!

  • Sun 3/17, 3:05 a.m., vs. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (recap)
  • Sun 3/17, 8:05 p.m., vs. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (recap)
  • Wed 3/20, 2:35 a.m., vs. Seattle Mariners (ESPN)
  • Thu 3/21, 2:35 a.m., vs. Seattle Mariners (ESPN)

As an aside, the Nippon-Ham Fighters are an interesting example of one of the many ways things differ in Japanese baseball. Rather than identifying by the place where they play, NPB teams are named after their corporate sponsors, though a few opt to include both — hence the Hokkaido before this particular team’s name, or the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks who play in Fukuoka and are owned by SoftBank. The Fighters are owned by the Nippon Ham company (now NH Foods Ltd) and play on the island of Hokkaido, but when I was a child I assumed they were called the Ham Fighters and I still enjoy imagining what such a warrior would look like.


The A’s brought along 30 players on this trip. All 30 of them are allowed to play in the exhibition games against the Fighters, but then the roster will be trimmed down after that and only 25 of them will be active for the two games against the Mariners. The players in italics are not on the 40-man roster and would need to be added in order to play against Seattle.

Oakland A's Japan roster
Pitchers Hitters
Starters (5)

Mike Fiers (R)
Marco Estrada (R)
Brett Anderson (L)
Frankie Montas (R)
Chris Bassitt (R)

Relievers (10)

Blake Treinen (R)
Joakim Soria (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Fernando Rodney (R)
Ryan Buchter (L)
Yusmeiro Petit (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
J.B. Wendelken (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
-Jerry Blevins (L)
Catchers (3)

Josh Phegley (R)
-Nick Hundley (R)
-Beau Tayor (L)

Infielders (7)

Matt Chapman (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Marcus Semien (R)
Jurickson Profar (S)
Chad Pinder (R)
Franklin Barreto (R)
-Cliff Pennington (S)

Outfielders (5)

Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Ramon Laureano (R)
Robbie Grossman (S)
Mark Canha (R)

Here’s the full rundown of how the roster will evolve over the next week:

  • The full 30-man roster above is just for the Japan exhibitions
  • After those exhibitions, the 36-man spring roster will be cut down to 28
  • Of those 28, three can’t play against the Mariners and don’t even have to be present in Japan, but all must be on the 40-man roster
  • After the Mariners games in Japan, but before the U.S. home opener against the Angels the following week, the 28-man roster will be cut down to the final 25 as usual

Get ready for some corresponding 40-man roster moves in a couple days! At the very least, they’ll need to make room for catcher Nick Hundley. Click here for more info, including the Mariners roster.

Opening ceremonies

Sometimes in life things just turn out as perfectly as you could ever imagine, and this is one of those times. MLB absolutely nailed it with these first-pitch ceremonies in Japan.

The two A’s/Mariners games will both have the following setup: Japanese former players from one of the teams forming a battery to throw/catch the pitch, and an all-time legend from the other team in the batter’s box.

  • March 20: Kazuhiro Sasaki pitches to Kenji Johjima, with Rickey Henderson in the batter’s box
  • March 21: Keiichi Yabu pitches to Akinori Iwamura, with Ken Griffey Jr in the batter’s box

Of the four Japanese players, Sasaki was the biggest name as a two-time All-Star closer for Seattle. Johjima caught for the Mariners for four years and graded out as a solid player overall. Yabu was the first Japanese-born player to appear for the A’s in the majors, back in 2005, while Iwamura was an infielder who finished his MLB career with a brief stint in Oakland in 2010. (The only other Japanese-born A’s players have been slugger Hideki Matsui and reliever Hideki Okajima.)

Before all that, in the first exhibition against the Fighters on Sunday, the first pitch will be thrown out by Masanori Murakami. He was the first-ever Japanese player in MLB, back in 1964, a full three decades before the next one came around (Hideo Nomo). That’s a cool enough distinction that we can ignore that Murakami broke that barrier as a member of the Giants.

These pregame ceremonies will only constitute a few seconds of the action each night, but those few seconds will be awesome.

Photo journey

Before we get to the photos, here are a few columns from some of the beat writers on location (Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle; Martin Gallegos of the Mercury News; and Daniel Brown of The Athletic):

  • Slusser: Looking forward to Japan trip; what the different players are planning to do while there; and a note about former A’s farmhand Hiro Nakajima, who won’t face the A’s but will be playing in the exhibitions against the Mariners
  • Slusser: A’s arrive in Tokyo, work out in the dome
  • Gallegos: A’s prepare for different style of play against Japanese club
  • Gallegos: Japan Journal, avoiding jet lag
  • Brown: A’s, Ichiro, and pigeons on menu as MLB visits Japan

And now, have a look at it all for yourself! First off, there’s a long flight to get there, but fortunately reliever Ryan Buchter covered the beat whilst en route.

And 16 hours later, the players arrived at the airport.

... in style, of course.

Next up, exploring the city.

As well as some official press conferences, for both clubs.

And then to the Tokyo Dome field! First thing I notice in these pics is that the batter’s boxes are grass, not dirt.

Chappy’s mustache is filthy and I’m here for it. Not quite “Mr. Baseball” Tom Selleck, but hey, Selleck couldn’t play third base.

Turns out Khris can khrush it on any continent.

Got anything else to add? Share it in the comments! Spring baseball will resume in the morning before the sun rises in Oakland, and regular season ball begins in just a few more days.