Before the World Baseball Classic began, Japan manager Hiroki Kokubu handed the cleanup spot in his batting order to Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, the slugging outfielder from the Yokohama DeNA BayStars. One round into the tournament, Tsutsugoh has given Kokubu no reason to regret the decision.
Tsutsugoh had yet another hit Friday, in Japan's 7-1 win over China, and with a .364 batting average and two home runs in three games, he was named Most Valuable Player of Pool B.
"I don't send any signs for the cleanup guy," Kokubu said of Tsutsugoh. "His job is just get RBIs, and he just did what exactly I was expecting for him."
Tsutsugoh homered in each of Japan's first two games of the tournament. His two-run shot helped put away Japan's 11-6 opening win over Cuba, and another two-run shot extended Japan's lead in a 4-1 win over Australia.
Team Japan won each of its three first-round games to top Pool B. Japan will begin second-round play against the Netherlands, Sunday (6 a.m. ET) at Tokyo Dome.
"I don't evaluate which game is more important or less important," Tsutsugoh said. "Every game is just a game."
Tsutsugoh hit 44 home runs in 133 games last season for the BayStars.