FORT MYERS, Fla. — Masataka Yoshida was back in uniform for the Red Sox Friday night, playing left field and batting cleanup against the Atlanta Braves.
It has been a whirlwind week for Yoshida, who helped lead Japan to a World Baseball Classic championship in Miami Tuesday night. He then dived back into preparations for his major league debut next Thursday at Fenway Park.
“It was a really great experience for me,” Yoshida said via translator Keiichiro Wakabayashi. “”I was honored to represent Team Japan. Every single pitch was meaningful so I felt a lot. Throughout the WBC, it was a really good experience for me in my career.”
Yoshida was 9 for 22 with three extra-base hits and a tournament-best 13 RBIs in seven games for Japan.
“I was able to hit in good situations to get the RBIs. That was of great confidence to me,” he said.
Manager Alex Cora has said he plans to use Yoshida in the middle of the lineup. Yoshida said his approach is the same regardless of where he hits.
“To be honest, I don’t care where I hit,” Yoshida said. “The fact I focus on is I need to adjust to every single situation. With nobody on base, I need to get on base and with somebody in scoring position, I’ll try to get him to home plate. That’s what I’ll focus on.”
Yoshida was 0 for 2 with a walk and played six innings in left Friday. He is scheduled to play another Grapefruit League game Sunday. The priority for the final days of camp will be getting him innings in left field at JetBlue Park so he can get better accustomed to playing in front of the wall.
The Sox also will get him some work once they get back to Fenway Park.
“That’s the most important thing, to get him some reps,” Cora said.
“I need to practice a little bit more, especially off the wall and the distance from me to the wall,” he said. “I would like to practice a little bit more throughout the rest of [spring training].”
Over the 18 days he was with Team Japan, Yoshida was able to get suggestions from Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani on his transition to the majors.
“He gave me some advice, each situation, and how to wait and how to look at the ball against a pitcher in the US,” he said. “That was really comfortable and helpful for me.”
Yoshida said the atmosphere at LoanDepot Park in Miami for the WBC semifinals and final was unlike anything he had experienced before.
Team Japan was under enormous pressure to at least reach the championship game. That they won the title over the US team came as a relief.
“I was more tired in the body,” Yoshida said. “My mental tiredness was gone because we made it. Now, I need to reduce a little bit of my tiredness a little bit more. But I think I’m ready to play.”
Yoshida watched from left field when Ohtani struck out Angels teammate Mike Trout to end the championship game.
“Every player in the dugout anticipated he’s going to face Trout,” Yoshida said. “So it was really exciting and once he struck him out … really fun to watch.”
Yoshida is stacking up championships. He won the Japan Series with the Orix Buffaloes last year, hitting a pair of home runs in Game 5, including a walkoff.
He followed that up by agreeing to a five-year, $90 million contract with the Red Sox in December, then winning the WBC.
“Both of the championships makes me really happy,” Yoshida said. “Team Japan, I needed to be a representative of Japan. That’s a different thing. But also, being part of Orix was also happy. Obviously, both of them are really good experiences.”