Sponichi recently featured a brief interview with Junichi Tazawa that took place during the Pro-Am Best Nine Announcement Ceremonies. What follows is my translation of that inteview.
What are you memories of your 4 years in pro-am ball?
The first 2 years were really tough. But things got better towards the end. I said I would pay my respects to the community and stayed an extra year. I think that allowed me to end things on a positive note.
Starting this year, you'll focus solely on being a starter. You've had problems with your off-speed pitches in the past, but it seemed like this year you had things under control.
I really felt like I could throw my off-speed pitches for strikes [this year]; I could pick a spot on either side of the plate and locate it there. Last season, I started vocalising at my release point and that helped me with my timing.
You pitched in the Championships (in November) after saying you would be going to the States.
I knew all eyes would be on me after saying that I wanted to go to the Majors. So I did my best to put up numbers that would be fitting of my desires. I got hit a little bit towards the end, but I thought I pitched pretty well.
The draft of fate. You didn't get picked by any teams in the NPB.
I never really thought of it that way. My coach and people around me were really concerned. I thought if I was picked, I was picked and no big deal -- I would just mean I'd have to wait things out until January 31st.
You didn't say a word, not even at the airport on your way to Boston, until you signed a contract.
I probably should have just said I was going to sign a contract with a team in the Majors. But there were a number of things that were on my mind and kept me from opening my mouth.
The reason why you chose the Majors. The biggest reason.
I initially wanted to play in the NPB. But then the MLB has a really good development program in place and I thought that I might benefit from that.
Why the Red Sox?
I listened to their offers and I thought they had the best development program. They are a strong / deep team so it'll be a tough road to the Majors, but I felt they were the club for me.
Your thoughts on Boston.
I saw a lot of fans wearing Boston Red Sox caps and other merchanise. I saw that and felt everyone was cheering for me. It made me feel like I made the right choice.
You signed an ML contract despite not having any pro experience -- do you think that might cause a problem?
I'm not worried. I just need to put up results worthy of an ML contract. I was also told not to worry. I don't understand English so I don't need to think about those things and just focus on my performance.
You don't have any lifestyle worries about living in the US?
I ate a lot of stuff like hamburgers this time around. I don't really have too many likes and dislikes when it comes to food. If I eat bread every day, then I might feel homesick for some rice, but I'm not really too concerned about that. The fact that I can't speak English my be some cause for concern, but I'm really looking forward to playing baseball.
It seems like you'll start the season at Double-A Portland. For the Red Sox, it's a gateway to success.
I haven't had the time to visit yet, but I have been filled in. I can also feel the expectations people have for me.
What was it like meeting Matsuzaka?
He's really amazing. I was only in elementary school, but I watched him pitch in the Koshien (1998). He said that he'd take take me out when I go back to the States. Pitching in the same rotation? That possibility hasn't really sunk in yet, but that would be great.
What are your thoughts on representing Japan at the WBC in the future?
I'm not anywhere near that kind of player yet, but I'd like think I will be at some point.
Wakui and Darvish are near your age group.
They really are amazing. And they have put up the numbers as pros. You can't put me in the same group because I still haven't done anything yet. So I have no sense of them being rivals either.
What kind of pitcher do you want to be?
As a pro-am pitcher, people said I had a good fastball, but in the Majors, there are a ton of pitchers like that. I want to grow as a pitcher. I've only played at the pro-am level and I think I have room to grow. I also don't have much of a preference for starting or relieving.