Baseball: Ohtani's mentor Kuriyama named Japan manager

© Kyodo News

Former Nippon Ham Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama was appointed the new manager of Japan's national baseball team, Samurai Japan, NPB Enterprise Inc. announced Thursday.

Kuriyama won two Pacific League pennants and a Japan Series in his 10 years with the Fighters, where he oversaw Shohei Ohtani's professional development as both a batter and pitcher.

"I feel a sense of responsibility from the bottom of my heart," Kuriyama told a press conference. "I will give 100 percent so that Japan can win the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

The first challenge for the 60-year-old Kuriyama will be two games against Taiwan on March 5 and 6.

His predecessor, Atsunori Inaba, led Samurai Japan to its first Olympic gold medal this summer. Inaba's term ended in September. With baseball not on the program for the 2024 Paris Games, the WBC will become the main focus for Kuriyama and his staff.

Japan won the first two WBC tournaments in 2006 and 2009, but was knocked out in the semifinals in 2013 and 2017.