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石田洋之「神宮つばメ〜ル」 : 第46回 真田裕貴、再び日本で成功するために
投稿日時: 2014-02-17 23:00:00

 新人や助っ人外国人を除き、今季の東京ヤクルトに加わった唯一の戦力が右腕の真田裕貴である。2002年のドラフト1巡目で巨人に入団し、1年目には先発でいきなり6勝をあげた。その後は主に中継ぎとして起用され、08年に移籍した横浜では3年連続(09〜11年)で50試合以上に登板している。11年オフには契約には至らなかったが、メジャーリーグ挑戦も試みた。
(写真:キャンプインから4日連続でブルペン入り。実戦初登板も間近だ)

 12年オフ、復帰した巨人から戦力外通告を受けると、台湾へ渡る。台湾プロ野球は日本と比べれば待遇はもちろん、環境も雲泥の差だ。台湾でプレー経験のある高津臣吾コーチは「いろんなところで投げましたけど、グラウンド状態は台湾が一番悪いです。雨が降ったら、すぐにマウンドや土の部分は田んぼみたいになるし、芝生もボコボコ。外野にボールが飛ぶと、選手が捕るのに一生懸命なんです」と語っていた。

 しかも外国人選手は成績が悪かったり、故障をした場合、2軍での調整は許されず、即解雇になる。1年単位ではなく1試合1試合、結果を出さなければ生き残れない――それが台湾の掟である。

 そんな中、真田は異国の地で大活躍をみせる。兄弟エレファンツでチームに欠かせないセットアッパーとなり、リーグ戦の半数以上(67試合)でマウンドに上がった。3勝2敗、防御率2.24。32ホールドはリーグ史上最多記録で、最優秀中継ぎ投手のタイトルも獲得した。

 昨季、統一セブンイレブンライオンズで指揮を執っていた元日本ハムの中島輝士(今季より四国アイランドリーグplus・徳島コーチ)は、台湾での真田の様子を次のように明かす。
「ツーシーム(シュート)で右バッターの懐を突き、インサイドを意識させておいてスライダーを投げたり、バッターをうまく打ち取っていました。ストレートも140キロ台後半が出ていて、コントロールもまずまず。追い込まれると台湾のバッターではなかなか打てなかったですよ」

 本人も「がんがんシュートを投げることと、ハートは誰にも負けない」と入団会見で語ったように、内外の出し入れがピッチングの生命線だ。この浦添キャンプでも打撃投手を務めた際にはストレートとシュートを中心に投げ込み、バットをへし折る場面もあった。

 昨季、ヤクルトはリリーフ陣の防御率が4.13と12球団で唯一の4点台だった。勝利の方程式も固まらず、1点差負けも17勝25敗。これもリーグワーストの勝率だった。その意味では台湾でリリーフとして一花咲かせた右腕の獲得は理に適った補強である。

 とはいえ、過去、台湾球界で実績を残してNPBに復帰し、目覚ましい成績を収めた日本人選手は少ない。近年では正田樹が台湾から日本の独立リーグ(BCリーグ)を経て、ヤクルト入りしたが、2年間の在籍で昨オフ、戦力外となった(今季からは再び台湾のLamigoモンキーズに入団)。元ヤクルトの選手では2012年に鎌田祐哉が台湾で最多勝(16勝)をあげたものの、日本球界復帰は叶わなかった。

 台湾と日本球界の両方を経験した選手、指導者の話を総合すると「台湾は日本の1軍半レベル」というのが相場だ。バッターも総じてパワーはあるが、ボールを見極めて打つタイプは少なく、ボール球に手を出しやすい傾向がある。台湾でのピッチングが、日本でも通用するとは限らない。

 先述の中島は真田が日本で成功するためのポイントを2つ指摘する。
「ひとつは落ちるボールです。日本のバッターに対しては内外の出し入れだけでは苦しくなる。縦の変化もつけてバッターに狙いを絞らせないことが大切になるでしょう。もうひとつは緩急をつけること。ストレートはいいので、全力投球するだけでなく、少し遊び心を持って緩いボールでタイミングを外すピッチングができれば、日本でもいい結果が出ると思います」

 風貌と強気のピッチングからヤンチャなイメージも強いが、実際に本人と接した人間は「まじめな好青年」と口を揃える。「1年間、日本に戻るために台湾で頑張ってきた」と話していただけに新天地に賭ける思いは強いだろう。

 ちなみにヤクルトは台湾では「養楽多」と表記する。「タフさが売りなので最低でも60試合以上投げたい」という30歳が有言実行で投げまくれば、燕党にとっても文字通り「楽しみが多い」シーズンになるかもしれない。

(次回は3月3日に更新します)

(石田洋之)


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