Shogo Akiyama makes Cincinnati Reds history on Opening Day

Shogo Akiyama, of the Reds, singles to drive in a run in the sixth inning against the Tigers on Opening Day on Friday, July 24, 2020, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff
Shogo Akiyama, of the Reds, singles to drive in a run in the sixth inning against the Tigers on Opening Day on Friday, July 24, 2020, at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. David Jablonski/Staff

Shogo Akiyama didn’t earn the start on his first Opening Day with the Cincinnati Reds but made history Friday as a pinch hitter.

Akiyama became the first Japanese player to appear in a game for the Reds when he singled to drive in Freddy Galvis with two outs in the sixth. The hit extended Cincinnati’s lead to 5-1 against the Detroit Tigers at Great American Ball Park.

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Akiyama stayed in the game to play left field.

The Reds signed Akiyama to a three-year, $21 million contract in January. Until then, they were the only Major League Baseball team that had never had a player from Japan.

Before the game Friday, Reds manager David Bell was asked by a Japanese reporter if Akiyama would see action in the opener.

“As you know and I know everyone in Japan knows, there’s nine innings,” Bell said, “and if there are days when Shogo does not start the game, like today, what a great weapon to have off the bench. He’s going to be a huge part of our team. He’s going to start many, many games for us — hopefully for years to come. This was the lineup we decided gave us the best chance tonight, but we take into consideration that having Shogo on the bench tonight could very well play a big part in that.”

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