Tag Archives: Naoyuki Uwasawa

Fairness to Uwasawa

In a story I wrote about Yoshinobu Yamamoto and his three compatriots attempting to land pitching gigs in MLB this winter, I fear I may have done a disservice to Naoyuki Uwasawa.

In Nashville this month, I had the unexpected pleasure of a visit from agent Mike Seal, who is representing Uwasawa in his contract talks. Seal, who I know as a straight shooter who is well thought of by MLB executives, had been disappointed to read a quote I got from an MLB scout based in Asia, who thought that Uwasawa so desired to play in MLB that he would even a sign a split minor-major contract.

“He’ll get a competitive major league contract,” Seal said. “There’s no way he’s signing just to sign.”

On Sunday, the scout responded by saying that the pitcher had mentioned a split contract himself.

Sometimes players need to listen to their agents, unless of course the agent is Scott Boras and what he’s advising you to do has more to do with his agenda than the player’s.

As Seal knows well, having represented Ryosuke Kikuchi, there have been position players who for one reason or another have turned around and gone back to Japan rather than take what the market offered them. I hoped to convey that even though Uwasawa is not at the absolute top of teams’ wish lists, he would be able to find work.

Seal said Uwasawa had a good fastball. In 2022, batters swung and missed at it 19 percent of the time, the best among starting pitchers in a league with Roki Sasaki and Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who got whiffs 18 percent of the time. Of course, that isn’t the whole story on his fastball, or Uwasawa, but he does have good command, and pitchers who can locate their fastball and throw a few good secondary pitches, can get a ton of strikeouts in MLB these days against batters who are trying to put every pitch in the seats.

My take is that while his pitches are above average in Japan and close to MLB average, he does have a ton of them, giving him lots to work with as he adjusts to what works and doesn’t. The desperation for starting pitching in MLB is probably going to drive teams to him, and according to Seal, Uwasawa is a gregarious hard worker who speaks English well and is eager to learn, which will be key, because players shifting from one brand of baseball to another often have to make lots of adjustments before competing and once it starts.

I wish him the best.

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ramping up: 21 days to go

One aspect of the long layoff forced by the novel coronavirus is that players who were due to miss the original March 20 start of the season, are now regaining fitness and may be able to make the roster when the season finally starts on June 19.

350 days

That’s how long it will be between starts for Naoyuki Uwasawa when he takes the mound for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Tuesday’s practice game.

Last season, Uwasawa was a key component of the Rube Goldberg contraption that was the Fighters’ pitching rotation last season. Manager Hideki Kuriyama used him and Kohei Arihara as the pillars in conventional starting roles, with a handful of others tasked with going either once or twice through the opposing lineup depending on the skipper’s confidence in them.

In a June 18 interleague game, Uwasawa was kneecapped by a batted ball hit by Neftali Soto, the DeNA BayStars’ two-time Central League home run champ. Prior to that game, the Fighters starting pitchers were 26-18 with a 3.65 ERA. Afterward, even with some superb 1-inning opening acts by Mizuki Hori, they went 18-31 with a 4.32 ERA.

On Thursday, he faced five batters in a simulated game at the Fighters’ minor league facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Prefecture, and is expected to pitch two innings on Tuesday at the Lotte Marines’ Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba.

Yanagita back with a bang

Yuki Yanagita, who until the recent ascension of Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki, was considered the Japanese outfielder most coveted by MLB clubs, returned to the SoftBank Hawks’ first team for an intrasquad game on Saturday. Yanagita has been rehabbing since his 2019 dumpster fire of a season was capped with right elbow surgery in the offseason.

Yanagita missed most of the season with a knee injury and failed by the slimmest of margins to get the 140 days of service time needed to be a free agent this winter. Had the Hawks brought him up a few days earlier, he would have been on track to fulfil his stated goal of playing in the majors. They didn’t and he signed a long-ass contract that keeps him in Fukuoka for essentially the rest of his career.

On Saturday, according to the Sankei Sports, he hit an opposite-field homer from submarine right-hander Rei Takahashi, the Pacific League’s 2019 rookie of the year and another player who was due to miss the start of the season in March but now has a shot at helping out the rotation from the start.

Stewart takes drive off shin

The Hawks’ Carter Stewart Jr left the mound after pitching just one inning when he took a shot off his right shin that was turned into the final out of the inning.

Iguchi changes tune on Sasaki

Eighteen-year-old right-hander Roki Sasaki who repeatedly was clocked at over 100 miles per hour in his final high school season, apparently will appear in a practice game for the Lotte Marines in the coming weeks, manager Tadahito Iguchi indicated to the media on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, Iguchi had said Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, would not be ready to appear in a game next month.