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NHK: Hideki Okajima

by on Dec.29, 2008 @ 10:22 am, under Other

NHK followed the program about Ichiro Suzuki with a program about Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima. I managed to catch the whole program this time around and I took some notes. There wasn't really that much interesting stuff about Matsuzaka, but there was some good info on Okajima.

  • Okajima went into the 2008 season working on a new change-up he called the "doki doki ball" because it dipped and curved in various ways. And while the pitch seemed to show some potential early on during spring training, hitters began to figure the pitch out. Okajima also began feeling pain in his wrist, stemming from throwing his new pitch.
  • At some point in May, there were some talks about putting Okajima on the DL. Okajima said that the pain in his wrist was almost unbearable and that he couldn't bend or flex the joint at all. All Okajima wanted to do was take a break, but without much of a bullpen, the Red Sox scrapped plans on putting him on the DL and instead reverted to shots to help curb the pain and some rest.
  • Since Okajima's new change-up wasn't as effective as (and was causing him pain), he scrapped the pitched early on during the season and reverted to his original out pitch: the curve. Okajiima tried throwing the curve last season, but he couldn't grasp the ball and therefore couldn't throw the curve that made him popular in Japan. However, while throwing bullpen sessions, Okajima figured out a way to use the slip to his advantage -- he was able to throw a curve again. The TV program mentions his outing against the Yankees on July 7th as a turning point in his season.
  • Other than working on his curve, Okajima also worked on his pitching motion. He wanted to keep the hitters off-balance and focused in on that by working from both the stretch and the wind. Okajima said that being successful in the Majors isn't just about reading data, it's also about figuring out ways to gain mental advantage over your opponent as well.

That was about it for Okajima. The only thing they mentioned about Matsuzaka that I think might be of interest is how surprised he was when the Red Sox completely shut him down for a week. I guess it's not something they do in Japan so he was at a loss for words when they told him not to throw for a week. Matsuzaka was worried about re-building his arm strength and losing his feel for the ball; there wasn't much he could do about the arm strength, but he did make sure to have a ball around as much as possible so he wouldn't lose the feel for the ball.

I think there was also a program on Fukudome, but I may have missed out on that. Here's to hoping they re-broadcast that one as well.