About 60 reporters covered Hisashi Iwakuma's press conference on Friday. He opened by saying, "My name is Hisashi Iwakuma" in English. While it is not uncommon for players to do parts of their press conferences in other languages like English and Italian (soccer), players usually do not go out of their way to do that when holding press conference in Japan.
His English speech:
My name is Hisashi Iwakuma. Please call me Kuma. I am very excited to become a member of Mariners. I want to contribute for the team's success with my family and Mariners fans. Thank you.
Regarding his incentives:
The number of starts he makes, between 20 and 30.
The number of innings he pitches, between 140 and 200.
And various other things like winning the Cy Young Award and making the All-Star Game.
Nikkan Sports has posted the following comments from Iwakuma:
Why did you decide to select the Seattle Mariners?
I visited for five days beginning on 12/15 last year. I had a chance to see Seattle and the stadium facilities. My daughter liked the area and it felt nice to be somewhere that felt similar to Sendai. The team also made me feel wanted. The terms did not matter.
When did you get an official offer from the Mariners?
Around January 2. That was, coincidentally, the same day I met my wife. It felt like fate. I did not hesitate in selecting them.
Did you contact Ichiro?
I have not spoken to him yet. There are things I want to ask Ichiro regarding the team. I feel stronger knowing Ichiro and [Munenori] Kawasaki are backing me up.
Your uniform number?
The number 18 was open so I asked for it. I was 21 in Japan, now I want to redefine myself as an ace in the US wearing the number 18.
If [Yu] Darvish ends up signing with the Texas Rangers, then you will be playing in the same division.
I am really looking forward to that. I think I will feel even more motivated knowing I might pitch against him.
What kind of pitcher will you aim to be?
Control and movement. I want to move my pitches around and make them hit the ball.
Sponichi has posted slightly different comments from Iwakuma:
How do you feel right now?
I am really happy. I signed a deal with the Mariners and now I can start fresh.
Why did you select the Mariners?
I went to Seattle with my daughter and she liked it there. Their first real offer came January 2, the date when I first met my wife. It felt like fate and I felt like giving it a go with them. On the money side of things, I had other offers that were better.
Ichiro will be on the same team.
There are a lot of things I do not know about the team, so there are things I would like to ask him. And knowing Kawasaki will also be there makes me feel strong.
Your uniform number is 18.
This is a big step for me so I wanted that number. I will do my best because I want to be considered an ace.
Any specific goals?
The first is playing through an entire season without getting hurt. I am preparing myself to pitch on four to five days of rest, so I would like to reach 30 starts. I want to do my kind of pitching and get batters to hit a lot of grounders.
The [Mariners] will begin the season in Japan.
That makes me happy and I will do my best to be one of the pitchers that pitches.
Any words you would like to send out to the fans in the Tohoku region?
This will be the first year in the rebuilding/revitalization of northern Japan. I will do my best to make sure they receive happy news, that can provide them with hope, from the US.
What kind of baseball do you want to play?
I am a control pitcher and I want to get batters to hit grounders by moving my pitches around.
Did you have a chance to speak to Ichiro?
Not yet, but I have a chance to play with Ichiro and Kawasaki. Knowing they are backing me up give me strength.
There is a chance Darvish will be pitching in the same division.
I look forward to pitching against him. That makes me excited.
Which batter would you like to face?
I think every batter is amazing, but Albert Pujols will be playing in the same division. I want to enjoy the feeling as I pitch against him.
Did [Masahiro] Tanaka's development help push you to heading to the Majors?
Tanaka and I both grew together. Having him around did, in some way, help with my decision. I would like to see Rakuten win and I hope he is what drives them.
What are you thoughts on Hiroyuki Nakajima?
I do not think this experience will be bad for him. He needs to stay strong and I would like to see him continue to chase his dream.