Japan's WBC team will have pop

Japan's WBC team will have pop

The team representing Japan in the World Baseball Classic could be loaded with sluggers, and that would be only fitting.

After all, the team will be managed by Sadaharu Oh, the greatest home-run hitter of all time.

Nobuhiko Matsunaka, who hit 46 home runs and drove in 121 runs for the Pacific League Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, is the biggest thumper on a list of 29 names submitted Friday by Japanese officials. Other heavy-duty hitters are Takahiro Arai of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and Akinori Iwamura of the Yakult Swallows.

Between them, Matsunaka, Arai (43), Iwamura (30) and Wada (27) hit 146 home runs and drove in 386 runs.

That would make some kind of middle-of-the-lineup production.

Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki -- the first position player from Japan to come to the Major Leagues and perform at an All-Star level -- joins right-handed reliever Akinori Otsuka of the Padres and White Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi on the list of potential players.

Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui is not on the list, but he still may decide to play.

The inclusion of four Japanese Major Leaguers brings to more than 180 the number of MLB players that have committed to playing in the three-week event, which begins March 3 at the Tokyo Dome and ends with the championship game on March 20 at PETCO Park in San Diego.

Oh is the all-time king with 868 career home runs and is currently a manager for the Softbank Hawks. Kazuhiro Takeda is the pitching coach, Hatsuhiko Tsuji is the infield coach and Yasunori Ohshima is the hitting coach.

Toshiya Sugiuchi, who compiled an 18-4 record and 2.11 ERA for the Hawks during the 2005 season, leads the list of potential pitchers available to Oh. Shunsuke Watanabe of the Chiba Lotte Marines (15-4, 2.17 ERA) also is on the list of prospective hurlers. Both played for teams in the Pacific League.

Central League standout pitchers on the list include Hiroki Kuroda, who was 15-12 with a 3.17 ERA for the Carp, and Koji Uehara of the Yomiuri Giants. He had a record of 9-12 and a 3.13 ERA last season.

Ichiro, who starred for the Orix BlueWave for 10 years before joining the Mariners in 2001, finished the 2005 season with 206 hits, 15 homers, 68 RBIs and a .303 batting average. He's amassed at least 200 hits in each of his five Major League seasons.

Iguchi batted .278 with 15 home runs and drove in 71 runs for the World Series champion White Sox, and he was a star in the postseason.

Each team's ultimate 30-man roster must be finalized 24 hours prior to the start of the tournament.

Final rosters must include a minimum of 13 pitchers and three catchers. MLB has committed to 60 percent of the players having either a Major League or Minor League contract. The breakdown would be no more than 10 players on the 25-man roster of each Major League team and four more from the expanded 40-man rosters, said Paul Archey, MLB's vice president of international baseball operations.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.