Tanaka tries to find zone

Masahiro Tanaka threw his second bullpen of the spring on Tuesday at the Rakuten Eagles’ spring camp in Kin, Okinawa Prefecture, when he proved to be popular with the umpires as well, Full-count reported.

A feature of Japanese camp is the umpires calling balls and strikes in the bullpen. Former Hanshin Tigers reliever Jeff Williams once told about his catcher and the bullpen umpire nearly coming to blows over the ump’s calls in his first pen of the spring.

Tanaka, who was trying to re-acclimate himself to the way balls and strikes are being called in Japan now questioned reserve catcher Takahiro Shimotsuma after 22-year-old third-year umpire Kazuki Nishizawa called a ball.

  • Tanaka: “Did that miss a little? Was it low?”
  • Shimotsuma: “It was the fault of my catching.”
  • Tanaka: “No way. A ball is a ball.”

If umpires show Tanaka the same kind of deference Shimotsuma did, the right-hander might never leave Japan, although Nishizawa was apparently less helpful, the Nikkan Sports wrote when Tanaka quizzed him about where the top of the strike zone was.

Swing, swing, swing

Japanese spring training varies from the MLB version in a number of ways too numerous to mention here. But one of those attracted the attention of a writer for Chiba Nippo on Tuesday.

Although Japanese clubs end practice in the afternoon and have a day off every five or six days, it’s not that simple. Just as player are expected to engage in individual free workouts prior to spring training at team facilities with the coaching staff watching from afar, batters are expected to swing at the team hotel well into the night.

When he managed the Lotte Marines, Bobby Valentine said it was never part of the plan but rather a part of the culture, that after dinner players would go to the hotel parking lot and swing their bats.

Watching the players take their after-hour practice swings from the veranda of his hotel room has become a part of current Marines manager Tadahito Iguchi, the report noted.

“Everyone’s swinging,” he said. “I can’t tell who’s doing it because it’s dark, but you can hear that sound a good swing makes. That’s the degree to which they are doing ‘furikomi,'” Iguchi said.

Furikomi is a compound of the verb “furu” to swing and “komu” do something continuously, completely or intently, see the more common baseball term “nagekomi.”

“If you don’t swing, you can’t add the physical ability to hit.”

The story was more about the emphasis Iguchi is placing on players focusing on using their lower bodies to power their swings, but you get the picture.

The answer is always ‘more’

A day after every hit he allowed in a simulated game came off his fastball, Hiroshima Carp right-hander Yuta Nakamura went to the bullpen to make corrections, the Nikkan Sports reported Tuesday.

Nakamura threw a 234-pitch all-fastball bullpen.

“My fastball wasn’t good yesterday,” he said, while admitting he got carried away. “I came with then intent of doing a nagekomi with my fastball, but I may have thrown too much.”

Nakamura documented his endeavor with a Rapsodo system, to check his rotation and spin axis.

“I have a lot better feel for it now,” he said.

And in new school

Tuesday was R&D day at the SoftBank Hawks’ camp in Miyazaki, the Nikkan Sports reported when the four-time defending Japan Series champs invited tech companies and researchers into camp to measure four hitters’ motions as they swung.

“They measured how the position players moved, their swing speed and the rotational axis of the balls (off the bat),” said manager Kimiyasu Kudo, who has been pursuing a degree in sports science. “From the data they get we’ll be able to advise players going forward.”

The club had invited staff from Driveline to its 2019 autumn mini camp.

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