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Masahiko Morino

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Masahiko Morino (森野 将彦) (Mr. 3-Run)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Masahiko Morino is an infielder-outfielder for the Chunichi Dragons who is on Japan's team for the 2008 Olympics. He is nicknamed "Mister 3-Run" for his tendency to hit 3-run shots.

Morino was a second-round draft pick by Chunichi in 1996. He hit .136/.136/.318 in 13 games in 1997 and spent the next two years at ni-gun. He returned to Chunichi for 28 contests in 2000, hitting .156/.152/.333 and 40 in 2001 (.190/.203/.241).

Morino began seeing some regular time in 2002 as a utility infielder; his main role was filling in at second base when Masahiro Araki played the outfield. He hit .225/.285/.366 in 84 games. In 2003, he batted .271/.308/.400, playing at least 10 games at each infield spot. He appeared mostly at shortstop, backing up Hirokazu Ibata.

Morino hit .272/.326/.407 in 80 games in 2004, playing first base and left field primarily and seeing a fair amount of action as a pinch-hitter. In 2005, he split time between third base and left field, alternating with Kazuyoshi Tatsunami at third and Tatsunami and Kazuki Inoue in left. He hit .268/.318/.422 that season.

Morino rotated between third and second in 2006, playing more games at the hot corner than any other Dragons player. Tatsunami played third when Morino was at second in place of Araki. He cost Masahiro Yamamoto a perfect game on September 16 when he had an error in a walk-free, hit-free game by Yamamoto. He hit .280/.321/.395 in the regular season and .294/.333/.353 in the 2006 Japan Series.

Morino hit 5th for the 2007 Dragons, playing left field, third base and second base. He had his best year to that point, hitting .294/.366/.458 with 75 runs, 97 RBI, 29 doubles, 18 home runs and 59 walks. He was 8th in the Central League in hits (156), tied Yoshinobu Takahashi and Seung-yeop Lee for 7th in doubles, was 6th in RBI and 10th in OBP. He hit .308/.476/.615 with 6 walks, a homer, 2 sacrifice flies and 4 RBI in the 2007 Japan Series to help Chunichi to its first Japan Series title in 53 years. Only Norihiro Nakamura had a higher OPS for the Dragons in the Series.

Morino went 0 for 3 with a walk and a run in the 2007 Asian Championship as Japan won a spot in the 2008 Olympics; he remained on the Japanese national team roster for the Beijing Games. Morino struggled in Beijing, going just 2 for 18 with a run and a RBI in the 8 games, being used as Japan's primary left fielder. In Japan's 5-3 loss to South Korea, Morino pinch-hit for Tomoya Satozaki with 2 outs in the 9th and two men in scoring position but grounded out against Tae-hyon Chong.

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