Stewart’s maiden effort a wild ride

Ten months after signing Carter Stewart Jr to a six-year contract, the SoftBank Hawks used the delayed start to the season to give the 20-year-old right-hander some first-team pitching experience on Friday.

Stewart allowed one run on a solo homer, gave up two singles, walked five and struck out five. He touched 95.7 mph on his final pitch of the first inning, when he escaped a one-out bases-loaded jam with a strike out.

Of the 46 fastballs I have a record of, he made his catcher reach on 24 of them and hit the target with five. Of 32 curves, he missed badly with 19 and hit the glove with seven. But even when he missed, he was hard to hit.

Here are the game highlights, courtesy of Pacific League TV.

On top of never having faced Stewart before, the right-hander had another advantage: elite spin. Stewart was spinning a lot of his curves over 3,000 RPM according to the broadcast display. The MLB average last year was 2,531, while Charlie Morton’s average was 2,886. Of course, NPB’s somewhat tackier balls are thought to give pitchers an advantage with their spin pitches, but that extra oomph meant more fat pitches that were miss-hit.

Stewart has a big body, so its possible that his balance and command will take a little while to develop, but he is definitely going to be a fun pitcher to watch.

After spending four months last year with the Hawks’ third team competing against amateurs and independent minor leaguers, Stewart is set to move up to the Western League, where SoftBank’s main farm team plays. SoftBank manager Kimiyasu Kudo, who said the chances of Stewart contributing on the first team this season were not zero.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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