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SPORTS COMMUNICATIONS - 第175回 愛媛・星野おさむ「体力勝負で初の前期制覇を」

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野球西国巡り(第1、3火曜更新) : 第175回 愛媛・星野おさむ「体力勝負で初の前期制覇を」
投稿日時: 2013-06-04 22:00:00

 6月に突入して愛媛は14勝9敗3分で首位(3日現在)。チームとしては勝ったり負けたりで乗り切れていませんが、投手陣がゲームをつくり、勝ち試合をモノにできていることが大きいです。

 投手陣では実績のある小林憲幸池ノ内亮介に次ぐ先発として、古舘数豊が開幕前からカギを握るとみていました。しかし、オープン戦でも集中打を浴びるなど、なかなか結果を出せません。以前から指摘しているように、彼は練習の取り組みは素晴らしいものがあります。とはいえ、プロは結果がすべてです。いくら一生懸命やってもバッターを抑えられなければ生き残れません。

 野球はフィギュアスケートや体操とは違い、どんなに球筋や球速、フォームがきれいでも打たれてしまっては成績を残せないものです。バッターといかに対戦し、アウトを重ねるか。もう3年目ですから対バッターでピッチングを考える時期に来ています。

 開幕前、改めて本人にそのことを話し、バッターから見て打ちにくいフォームに修正していきました。少し腕の位置を下げ、試行錯誤を重ねた成果は現われつつあります。5月25日の徳島との首位攻防戦は2安打完封勝利。続く31日の高知戦では6回1安打無失点。本人も自分の理想を捨てるのは抵抗があったようですが、フォームのみならず、考え方も変えたことが結果につながってきています。

 先発がある程度のイニングを投げればブルペン陣の出番です。しかし、愛媛はこれまで決まった継投のパターンを確立できていません。元NPB組の西川雅人金森敬之はまだ本来の調子ではなく、その時々のコンディションで伴和馬を加えた3人の中から最後を締めくくるピッチャーを決めています。その意味ではリリーフ陣は毎試合がスクランブルです。

 これは橋本隼中村太紀といった若いピッチャーにとって、いい経験になると考えています。アイランドリーグは週3、4試合でも、NPBになれば6連戦が普通です。毎試合、投げる準備をして調子をキープするにはどうすべきか。彼らも、まだまだ不安定なところがありますから、自分でそのコツを掴んでほしいと思っています。

 勝利の方程式が固まっていない分、監督の責任は重大です。状況に応じてイニング途中でのスイッチも増えており、萩原淳コーチと相談しながら継投策を考えています。前期は残り14試合。僕の投手起用が優勝できるかどうかのポイントと言っても過言ではありません。

 そして、ここまで投手陣にオンブにダッコだった野手陣の奮起も求められます。数字上はチーム打率、得点ともリーグ1位とはいえ、決して打線が機能しているとは言えません。その一因は開幕からトップバッターで使い続けてきた高田泰輔の不振です。高田は昨季から機動力も使えるスタイルに変わり、リードオフマンとしてNPBに自らを売り込んでほしいと期待していました。

 ところが、開幕から打率は2割台前半となかなか成績が上がってきません。内容も見逃し三振が多く、同じピッチャーに同じ打ち取られ方をしています。これではトップバッターとして不十分です。2カ月間、我慢した末、2日の高知戦ではついに9番降格を決断しました。

 すると重荷がとれたのか、いきなり3安打3打点の大活躍。打順変更は的中も、うれしいような寂しいような複雑な心境です(苦笑)。先程の古舘同様、高田の練習態度は申し分ありません。ただ、繰り返しになりますが、プロは結果がすべて。練習でできることが、なぜ実戦で出せないのか。そこをもっと掘り下げないとレベルアップにはつながらないと感じています。

 一方、高田とともに打順を決めていた金城雅也は4番で頑張っています。リーグ3位の打率.312で、同2位の18打点。4月の月間MVPにも輝き、打線の軸ができました。今後は彼を中心に、相手投手やバランスを考えながら打順を組んでいくことになるでしょう。

 もちろん、彼にも課題はあります。それはゲームの入り方です。いい時はプレーボールから集中してできているのですが、スイッチが入りきらないままに1打席目を迎える試合も見受けられます。特にホームゲームは試合前のセレモニーやイベントがあり、守りからスタートするせいか、試合モードへの切り替えが遅れがちです。NPBのような高いレベルでは試合の入りが悪ければ、1試合をムダにすることになりかねません。金城には、この点を気をつけるよう、常に叱咤激励しています。

 残りの14試合はホームゲームが9試合。普通、スポーツではホームが有利と言われますが、愛媛に関してはあまりアドバンテージがありません。特に香川には3戦全敗とやられているのが現状です。愛媛の場合、ホームと言っても使用球場は新居浜から宇和島まで県内全体にいくつもあります。極力、事前練習でマウンドやグラウンド状態に慣れるようにしているものの、若い選手は対処するのが大変でしょう。
 
 それでもホームでは地元の皆さんの熱い応援を味方にできます。声援を力に変え、ここまで来たら何としてでも前期優勝を勝ちとるつもりです。三つ巴の優勝争いは想定の範囲内。チームとしての完成度が高い徳島、個々の能力が秀でている香川に対抗するものがあるとすれば、体力でしょう。

 監督になって3年目。今までどのチームにも負けない練習はしてきたつもりです。選手たちには野球への取り組み、貪欲さを徹底してきました。個々のレベルや組織力では劣っていても、一番伸びしろのあるチームだとみています。

 残り1カ月、チームがどこまで進化するのか。初の前期優勝への道のりは厳しいものになるはずです。何事も初めてを達成するのは難しいもの。だからこそチャレンジしがいがあるのでしょう。必ずやファンの思いに応えられるよう、1試合1試合を大切に戦い抜きます。引き続き、応援よろしくお願いします。


星野おさむ(ほしの・おさむ)プロフィール>:愛媛マンダリンパイレーツ監督
 1970年5月4日、埼玉県出身。埼玉県立福岡高を経て、89年にドラフト外で阪神に入団。内野のユーティリティープレーヤーとして、93年に1軍デビューを果たすと、97年には117試合に出場。翌年には開幕スタメンで起用される。02年にテストを経て近鉄へ。04年に近鉄球団が合併で消滅する際には、本拠地最終戦でサヨナラ打を放つ。05年に分配ドラフトで楽天に移籍し、同年限りで引退。06年からは2軍守備走塁コーチ、2軍打撃コーチなどを務めた。11年より愛媛の監督に就任。


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