Yu Darvish had a bit of a blow-up during "sheet dageki" yesterday. (Sheet dageki is situational hitting practice.)
The NPB announced a new 15-second rule in January that requires pitchers to pitch balls within 15 seconds of getting the ball back from the catcher. Failure to do so results in an automatic ball call. The prior rule called for the pitcher to pitch the ball within 12-seconds of "getting ready to face the batter." The new rule was introduced to help speed games up.
But back to Darvish... During situational practice yesterday, with the count 1-2 against Yoshio Itoi, Darvish shook the catcher off twice. The a field ump called out that he was taking too long and then the plate ump immediately called out ball. Darvish was confused and didn't realize the 15-second rule was being enforced.
A confused Darvish after the 15-second rule was called
"Normally, they don't take the 15-second rule during situational practice. How am I supposed to pitch properly if I have to pitch within 15-seconds of gettting the ball back from the catcher? This isn't baseball," said Darvish.
"I can understand if it's 15-seconds from the set position, but otherwise pitchers need to use the rosin bag, look around to see what the situation is... That means pitchers only have about 3-seconds to decide which pitch to throw. This is our jobs we're talking about here. ... Expanding the strike zone would make things go much faster than this rule" added Darvish.
15-seconds does seem a bit harsh. And I would have to agree with Darvish: expanding the zone would probably speed games up a lot more effectively than rushing pitchers. It'll be interesting to see how this new rule affects play (and stats) over the course of the season. Wonder who the first victim pitcher will be.
BTW: my apologies for not covering the 15-second rule in previous posts. I'm not really sure how I missed that.
...Kohei Hasebe (Rakuten Eagles) tossed 66 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday (with the catcher standing). Hasebe is coming off of left knee surgery (a meniscus injury) and is currently working out of Ni-gun training camp.
"I'm trying to time my schedule to coincide with opening day. I'm feeling better this year than I did last year at this time," said Hasebe.
...Yoshinobu Takahashi (Yomiuri Giants) is on a separate training schedule due to fears that his lower back pains might return. His training schedule is ramping up little by little, but he's still not ready to join the rest of the team in practice.
"I really want to train with the rest of the guys, but it can't be helped at this point," said Takahashi.
...Katsuya Nomura set Masahiro Tanaka's goal for the season (during his 86 pitch bullpen session yesterday): a 15-3 record. Said Nomura, "Reward? If it's a wristwatch, I'll give him whatever he wants of mine."
A wristwatch collector, Tanaka replied, "I'll take a look at his collection and think about which one I want. I really want to do my best to meet his expectations."
...A bleeding finger didn't stop Shinobu Fukuhara (Hanshin Tigers) from tossing 134 pitches in a bullpen session yesterday. Fukuhara cut his right ring finger after tossing about 30+ pitches. After getting the cut, he shouted out, "I have a cut. Bandaid!"
Fukuhara was originally slated to toss 70 pitches in his session. Said Fukuhara, "My fingernail just got caught [on my ring finger]. No big deal. ... I was able to make my pitches. I think I'm progressing at a nice pace. And I'm not hurt."
...Norichika Aoki has said that he's ready to play the infield at the WBC if it came to that.
"Infield? Of course! I even have a glove for that," said Aoki. But not wanting to step on any toes, he added, "I don't want to say too much though because it would be disrespectful of the infielders we already have on the roster."
Aoki obviously won't be playing the infield unless there's an emergency, but it should help the team to know that he's willing (and preparing) to play the infield if needed. Aoki has practiced at second before in the past.