Koji Uehara left for the US out of Narita Airport on Sunday. Uehara tossed his first bullpen session on February 4 and worked up to the one-pitch bullpen session he tossed on February 11. On Saturday, Uehara also updated his blog and commented on how he should handle himself with the trade rumors continuing to swirl around.
Hisashi Iwakuma reported to the first day of Spring Training in Peoria, AZ on February 12 (February 12 Japan time). After about a twenty-five minute meeting that began at 9am, Iwakuma appeared on the field wearing his Seattle Mariners uniform. Workouts lasted about two hours and included playing catch and fielding practice. Iwakuma is scheduled to toss a bullpen session on February 13.
Sponichi is carrying the following comments from Iwakuma:
Up until last year, spring camp started on February 1...
I do feel a little strange. But I think I will be ok. I am a little nervous.
Unlike Japan, you will have limits.
I do not consider tossing bullpens sessions [an effective form of] practicing [for me]. I want to get my shoulder ready and get to where I can face batters and get a feel for things as soon as possible.
Your preparations in between starts during the season will change...
I am not the type of pitcher that needs to throw a lot of pitches. I am usually good with playing catch. I can go without tossing a bullpen session. I will follow the schedule the team sets and it would be good I can throw at least once two days before [my starts]. Maybe forty-fifty pitches. I suppose the concern is how I will deal with the fatigue. It will be about how well I can recover in four days. I will try some things when exhibition play begins.
The MLB baseball is said to be a little slippery. What do you thinik?
I do not feel anything strange. I find it easy to throw and I get some nice movement. Maybe because it is dry. I think it is easier to make pitches move. It is not difficult to curve or sink the ball.
They say the mound is harder than the ones in the Japan.
I brought about three [pairs of cleats]. Compared to the cleats I used in Japan, there are more spikes and spikes are longer. The spikes could get caught, so I will either need to file them down or try a different pair. Either way, the first thing I want to do is see how the spikes work. I heard other players had trouble so I will prepare and confirm things along the way.
Your style is to throw a small number of pitches and get batters to hit the ball. Greg Maddux once tossed a complete game using seventy-eight pitches.
That is my ideal. [To pitch] not just with power, but also with things like control and movement. It would be good if I can [get batters out] within three pitches. That means I need to figure out where I throw the out pitch. Other than that, getting the first pitch over for a strike will be important.
Your fork is an out pitch. Any other pitches you can use to get third strikes with?
The four-seamer. The Majors Leaguers see us as foreigners. The delivery is different and [the release point] is hard to see so I think they will have a hard time making contact. I do not want to focus on speed, but on how to take advantage of the other things.
Major League pitchers tend to throw pitches that hit the corners, like sliders to the outside and two-seamers to the inside...
I have never thrown a two-seamer to a left-handed batter. Maybe that is something I can practice. If it can become an effective pitch, I want to use it.
There are a lot of batters with powerful swings in the Majors...
There is a part of me that wants to fight power with power. In watching games on TV, I thought about how they hit the ball and how they hit home runs. And when I imagine myself pitching, there are times I am worried, but that is what makes it interesting.
Up until last year. you entertained fans with your starts against Nippon Ham's Yu Darvish. You will be in the same division and there is a good chance you will face him in the Majors...
That makes me happy. Darvish has some amazing talent. I would love to pitch against him again.
Munenori Kawasaki worked out for about two hours on Saturday and also had a chance to talk to Brendan Ryan. Workouts included running, playing catch, and 112 swings during soft-toss batting practice. He also took fielding practice at short and at third.
Nikkan Sports has posted the following comments from Kawasaki:
Your goals for the practice?
Nothing in particular. No goal.
Are you feeling jet lagged?
Sunlight is the best cure for jet lag, so I am here to get some sunlight.
What did you talk to Ryan about after fielding practice?
I asked him about the grass and the field. But, it is a secret. I will not tell you. It is a secret. Something only I know.
How is your English?
I am Japanese so I can not speak any English. But, I am managing at the moment. I am making it now, so I should be ok.
Do you have a decent understanding of what others are saying to you?
Not at all. <laughter> I wonder what they are saying. At one point, I thought how it would have been good if I was born in America. But it was just one brief moment. I am ok. [I am] happy.
How are you feeling?
The same. I am not feeling anything. I feel nothing. For me, I am always at my best year round. Nothing different on New Years Day. It is all the same.
So you are always feeling great?
Not always. Sometimes when I go home I am a mess. Like when I fight with my wife. There are times when I feel horrible.
What are your plans moving forward?
Nothing has been set in stone. I will just go with the flow. I may take the day off.
Thank you for your time.
With regards to his new uniform number, 61, he said he liked it and jokingly referred to how the numbers, read backwards, spelled out Ichiro -- in Japanese, (ro)ku is six and ichi is one.