‘The numbers weren’t good’ for Dodgers’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto during the second spring start

By | March 7, 2024

Yoshinobu Yamamoto looked uncomfortable throwing out of bounds on Wednesday, which was unfortunate as the new right-handed Dodgers spent most of his rough three-inning stretch against the Chicago White Sox with runners on base.

Yamamoto, who signed a 12-year, $325 million contract with the Dodgers in December, was tagged for five earned runs and six hits in a 12-9 Cactus League win at Camelback Ranch, striking out four, walking three gave up runs and only threw 32 times. of his 58 pitches for strikes.

He let the first man reach base in every inning, he couldn’t throw his curve for strikes and he fell behind in far too many beats. About the only bright spot was his mean split-finger fastball of 90 mph, which completed all four of his strikeouts.

“I did not feel well [out of the stretch], and that’s something I have to work on and adapt to,” Yamamoto said through an interpreter. “Overall the numbers were not good. There were too many balls and walks. But the good thing was that I could try whatever I wanted to try. I was testing a few things, and it was good.”

Read more: Dodgers’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto says tipping is “not really a big concern” for him

Yamamoto, who played two scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers in his first Cactus League start on Feb. 28, wouldn’t elaborate on what he was working on, but he will have one more practice start before the team’s season opener in South Korea is scheduled to take place on Wednesday smoothing over everything that was bothering him.

“These games are going to happen,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “It’s spring training. Guys don’t always have their A things, so you have to figure out how to maneuver when they figure things out. I thought he pitched pretty well in the end. An unfortunate situation breaks out there. A ball from him and a few hard jumps.”

Paul DeJong hit an RBI infield single off Yamamoto’s leg in a three-run, two-walk first inning. Two White Sox runs scored in the third when Dodgers third baseman Max Muncy failed to glove DeJong’s chopper down the line, a play generously labeled a double.

“He’s still human,” Barnes said of Yamamoto. “Sometimes you don’t have prestige like he usually does. But I think it’s good to go through a difficult period. Baseball isn’t easy. I think he will learn from it and we will just move on.”

Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman provided the offensive highlight of the day, hitting a grand slam well over the rightfield wall in the fourth inning. Shohei Ohtani singled twice, drove in a run and walked Freeman’s slam.

Wednesday marked the first time Yamamoto and Ohtani were in the same lineup since last March, when the pair helped Team Japan win the World Baseball Classic.

Ohtani didn’t play in Yamamoto’s first Cactus League game, but the slugger did make the 20-minute drive to Surprise, Arizona, to see the 6-foot-4, 176-pound Yamamoto face the Rangers.

“I think Shohei came here six years ago [with the Angels] and it was different and difficult at times not to have a fellow countryman helping him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ‘But for Yoshinobu to come here and have a [WBC] teammate, a fellow countryman, showing him the way and supporting him… was great.”

Ohtani, who signed a 10-year, $700 million deal in mid-December, was also part of the Dodgers contingent, along with Mookie Betts, Freeman and Will Smith, who helped recruit Yamamoto to Los Angeles.

“I think it was huge,” Roberts said. “When you talk about the Japanese player, there is of course always speculation: do they want to play with each other? What no one ever knows. But I definitely believe that if someone of Shohei’s caliber says, ‘We want you here, I want to be your teammate,’ that’s a good selling point for Yamamoto.”

Roberts believes Ohtani and Yamamoto will both benefit from having a Japanese teammate.

“I truly believe that comfort breeds performance and confidence, so having someone who speaks your language, whether it’s Spanish, English, Japanese or Korean, just makes it more comfortable and familiar,” Roberts said. “I believe it will help Shohei more, I really do. Not just Yoshinobu.”

Yamamoto’s unorthodox training methods, which emphasize flexibility, body control and body awareness over strength and include snake yoga techniques, handstands and throwing a spear-like device, are a subject of fascination for his new teammates.

In fact, the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Betts, who is about the same size as Yamamoto, started working with Yamamoto’s personal trainer, Yata Sensei, this week and followed part of Yamamoto’s regimen.

“I don’t necessarily know what I’m doing – I just do it and I feel good, so we’ll see,” Betts, 31, said. “The whole thing is interesting. You are never too old to learn. You are never too good to learn.

Read more: “It actually didn’t feel that strange.” Shohei Ohtani goes hitless vs. former Angels teammates

“He has won three Most Valuable Player Awards and three Cy Youngs [in Japan]? I mean, he’s of all worlds, so why not at least keep an open mind? I have nine years [left on my contract]. I’m going to make it the best nine years I can.”

Betts, who hit .307 with a .987 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 39 home runs and 107 RBIs and finished second in National League MVP voting last season, doesn’t expect to gain much strength with the help of Yamamoto’s training techniques.

But he could benefit from a little more flexibility as he makes the move from right field to second base this season.

“It’s not like I’m hitting 450-foot home runs now and when I start training [differently]I might add, two feet [of distance]?” Betts said. “It’s more important to stay healthy and be the best Mook for the next nine years, or however long I have left.”

Short hops

The defensive struggles of shortstop Gavin Lux, who missed all of last season due to right knee surgery, continued Wednesday. Lux bounced two pitches to first base that Freeman managed to score, preventing two errors. Lux made a throwing error on the first two grounders he fielded in practice play. … Reliever Joe Kelly pitched a scoreless fifth inning, allowing one hit, striking out one and walking one, but Ryan Brasier gave up a two-run homer to Eloy Jimenez in the fourth.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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