Japan’s Shohei Otani will not play in World Baseball Classic

Japan's pinch hitter Shohei Otani watches the flight of his ground-rule double. (Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)

Japanese baseball star Shohei Otani will not play at the upcoming World Baseball Classic, according to reports out of Japan.

Otani is dealing with an injury to his right ankle, suffered during Game 4 of the Japan Championship Series on Oct. 26.

“The condition (of his ankle) hasn’t reached a level we had hoped. We’re not in a position where we can ask him to push it,” said Japanese manager Hiroki Kokubo.

MLB teams, and fans alike were anxious to get a look at Otani, who has as excelled both as an outfielder and a pitcher for the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the NPB.

The 22-year-old slashed .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 104 games this past season. He also had a 1.86 ERA, averaging 3.87 strikeouts per walk in 21 appearances – 20 of which were starts.

Japan will name another starting pitcher to its roster to replace Otani, whose fastball is capable of reaching triple digits.

The defending champions open tournament play against Cuba in Tokyo on March 7.

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