Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga has lots of adjusting to do in the next six weeks. It’s one of the reasons why he decided against pitching for Japan in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, which was smart. Between living in America, playing with teammates who don’t speak his language, and the game itself, what’s the biggest adjustment he’ll need to make?
Senga toed the slab in Post St. Lucie for his first bullpen session of the spring. While it wasn’t perfect, it was probably easy for Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to get excited about the hurler’s potential moving forward. After all, Senga hit 96 miles per hour during his 52-pitch session.
A common stumbling block for Japanese pitchers is the different baseball. The one they play with in the Nippon Professional Baseball League is smaller than what’s used in MLB. Senga doesn’t think that’ll be a huge problem, though, according to a report from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo.
The right-hander began getting himself acclimated to the different-sized (and slicker) baseball before arriving in Florida. However, the slope of MLB mounds is steeper than those in Japan. That could take longer for him to get used to. This change is impacting Senga’s mechanics and release point. DiComo points out that these details are critical for him to get the typical movement on his patented “ghost fork” pitch.
This season will include adjustments and learning for Senga, on all fronts. What’ll be key is to work through as many issues as he can so he’ll be as prepared as possible by Opening Day. Not leaving camp for the WBC makes that much easier to accomplish.
We don’t know exactly where he’ll be pitching in manager Buck Showalter’s rotation just yet. But if things go according to plan, he might pitch in Miami on the second day of the season. That’ll allow him two turns through the rotation on the road, as well as an opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of Citi Field for the first home series of the year (also against the Marlins).
Considering everything Senga is facing, the results of his first bullpen session were excellent. It’s all a learning experience, and there’s no doubt he’s soaking up everything like a sponge. All while enjoying some pizza with whatever topping tickles his fancy on that particular day.
Matt Musico can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.