Before Masataka Yoshida left Red Sox camp last week, manager Alex Cora had a message for him: See you in Miami.
That's where the finals of the World Baseball Classic will be held, and Japan is not only one of the favorites, but Yoshida is one of its best players.
He wasted no time justifying his manager's faith on Friday vs. Korea in the Tokyo Dome, going 3 for 3 with five RBIs to pace the hosts to a 13-4 rout.
Yoshida singled three times, launched a sacrifice fly, and walked with the bases loaded. He consistently hit the ball hard and continued justifying the faith in the Red Sox to pay him $90 million when few other teams were willing to make such a big investment.
Though his height (5-foot-8) would make him an outlier if he hits for power in the big leagues, there's no doubt that he generates tremendous bat speed and makes consistently solid contact while controlling the strike zone.
Japan is now 2-0 in the tournament after Thursday's 8-1 victory over China. Yoshida went 0 for 3 in that one with a walk and a run.
Before departing for Japan last week, Yoshida addressed the importance of the tournament in his home country.
"A lot of fans are really excited to watch WBC games," he said. "They're really expected to be a champion because we won the first and second, and we missed (the finals of) the third, and now at this tournament we gathered a lot of great players, so we really expected a good result."
Yoshida felt conflicted about leaving his new Red Sox teammates so early in spring training, but he suspects he'll see some of them before returning to Fort Myers.
"I feel sad a little bit," he said. "I'm finally get used to things a little bit. But a couple of players will be able to meet at the final in the tournament, so we say good luck to each other, then we'll be back here with healthy bodies."