Pitching coach Gondo a big part of Japan's success at WBC

TOKYO (AP) When Japan travels to Los Angeles for the championship round of the World Baseball Classic, they'll be joined by 78-year-old pitching coach Hiroshi Gondo.

Two-time champion Japan beat Israel 8-3 on Wednesday to improve to 6-0 in the tournament. The Japanese will play the second-place team from Pool F on Tuesday in the semifinals at Dodger Stadium.

Following an abbreviated career as a pitcher for the Chunichi Dragons in the 1960s, Gondo began a lengthy managerial career that included leading the Yokohama BayStars to the Japan Series championship in 1998.

He was a natural choice when Japan manager Hiroki Kokubo put together his team of coaches for the WBC.

In a tournament where mandatory pitch counts can lead to more pitching changes than normal, Japan has made good use of its bullpen in the absence of injured star pitcher Shohei Otani and several major leaguers like Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish, who opted to sit out the WBC.

Much of the credit goes to Gondo, who knows a thing or two about how to use pitchers. In his rookie season in 1961, he made 44 starts and compiled a record of 35-19 in 429.1 innings pitched.

Japan was known for notoriously excessive pitching workloads back then. Gondo only pitched five seasons and his numbers rapidly deteriorated after his rookie season, likely due to the wear and tear on his arm.

Things have improved lately and Gondo is partly responsible. As a manager, he established a reputation for not over-using his pitchers.

There won't be any marathon pitching performances in the WBC. The tournament restricts pitch counts to 65 in the first round, 80 in the second and 95 in the championship round.

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