Kenji Yano (矢野 謙次)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 178 lb.
Kenji Yano has played over a decade in Nippon Pro Baseball.
Yano hit 23 home runs in college. The Yomiuri Giants took him in the 6th round of the 2002 draft. He made his NPB debut as a pinch-runner for Roberto Petagine August 19, 2003. In his first plate appearance, he was hit by Yataro Sakamoto. He went 0 for 1 for the year. He was 4 for 18 with a double and a homer in 2004 in Japanese Baseball; his first hit came Yuji Yoshimi July 24 and his first homer was a day later off Scott Mullen.
When Yoshinobu Takahashi was hurt in 2005, Yano hit .281/.323/.429 with 228 plate appearances in 85 games. Four of his seven home runs were off Yoshihiro Doi. He remained a regular in 2006, producing at a .269/.335/.376 clip in 103 games. He was among the Central League leaders in times plunked (13, tied with Shuichi Murata for second behind Greg LaRocca) and steals (11 for 14, tied for 8th). He lost time in 2007 when the Giants picked up Yoshitomo Tani and Damon Hollins; he hit .291/.354/.548 in 178 plate appearances over 103 games as a pinch-hitting specialist. He homered in 7 of 158 at-bats. He had the first come-from-behind pinch-hit Giants grand slam in 20 years, doing so off Takayuki Shinohara May 31.
Yano had right knee surgery in the offseason and saw scant action in 2008 (0 for 5) and 2009 (1 for 9). He was back as a bench player for the Giants in 2010 in Japanese Baseball (.311/.393/.473 in 88 PA over 42 G). He batted .252/.283/.346 in 116 plate appearances and 53 games as a backup in 2011. In 2012, he produced at a .307/.391/.396 clip in 119 plate appearances and 62 contests. He was their #3 option in RF after Hisayoshi Chono and Takahashi and #4 in LF behind Tani, Takahashi and John Bowker. He was 6 for 17 with two walks, three runs and three RBI in the 2012 Japan Series as Yomiuri beat the Nippon Ham Fighters in six games. In the finale, he drove in the first two runs of a 4-3 win, singling off Masaru Takeda in the first to bring in Chono and Hayato Sakamoto. He was 1 for 3 with a RBI in the last game of the 2013 Asia Series as Yomiuri beat the Lamigo Monkeys for the title.
The Tokyo native hit .289/.302/.409 in 166 plate appearances over 90 games in 2013; he was 19 for 53 as a pinch-hitter to set a Giants record for pinch-hits. In the 2013 Japan Series, he homered off Ken Ray for the lone Yomiuri run in Game 3. He struck out as a pinch-hitter against Masahiro Tanaka with two on and a 3-0 deficit to end game 7 as Yomiuri fell.