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Igawa may learn hard way how tough New York fans can be

by Wayne Graczyk

New York Yankees lefty pitcher Kei Igawa made a less-than-spectacular major league debut at home on April 7, giving up seven runs in five innings against the Baltimore Orioles, though he was bailed out and saved from taking a loss by Alex Rodriguez, whose “sayonara” grand slam eventually won it for the Bronx Bombers.

Igawa left the game with a 12.60 ERA (ouch!), and the Yankee Stadium crowd was not so kind to their newest import from the Far East.

Tokyo’s 1950s rock-and-roller Jimmy Angel, a die-hard supporter of the pin-stripers, says he’s afraid the former Hanshin Tigers southpaw may be booed out of the Big Apple if he has another outing like that at home.

“I think (Igawa) is already having a tough time with New York fans,” said Jimmy. “I had a phone call from a friend who was at that game, and he said the fans are really on him. They had cards saying, ‘Go back to Tokyo’ and ‘We want the other guy.’ I think the fans are going to eat him alive and not give him a chance.”

Igawa was to have made his second start of the young season on the West Coast at Oakland on April 13, about as far as he can get away from New York, but he should be on the hill again at the House That Ruth Built on April 19, against the Cleveland Indians, or the next day, at Boston.

Hopefully, he will have settled down by then and can gain the trust and confidence of the Yankees faithful, so he won’t be a victim of the NYC pressure-cooker that apparently burned former Mets infielder Kaz Matsui and helped get him traded to Colorado.

One former teammate thinks Igawa will be fine, though.

Hanshin first baseman Andy Sheets was with him in 2005-06 with the Tigers and said Igawa’s big league debut was not all that bad, despite his numbers.

“It was freezing cold for one thing,” Sheets pointed out. “He gave up a bloop hit and did not get any breaks. He’ll settle down and do OK next time out.”

Igawa fared better in his second start on Friday against Oakland, getting a no-decision after going 5 1/3 innings.

Talk about not getting the breaks, how about Daisuke Matsuzaka’s Fenway Park debut on April 11?

The previous day, his Boston Red Sox one-sided the Seattle Mariners, beating them by a football score of 14-3.

But on the night “Dice-K” took the mound, the BoSox were not only shut out; they managed just one hit off Seattle right-hander Felix Hernandez.

Matsuzaka pitched well enough to win easily, but nobody can be victorious when his own team can’t even score one lousy run. He’s 1-1, with a 2.57 ERA in his two starts and will likely get the ball again on April 17, at Toronto.

Diamond Dust: Anybody out there know what happened to the Borosov Geocities Home Page?

It contained up-to-date statistics in English for Japanese baseball, but several fans and a couple of major league team personnel wrote e-mails to say it has shut down.

If any of you Internetters know the status of the Web site, please clue in the rest of us.

This year’s mid-season Nippon Professional Baseball All-Star Games will have a new sponsor.

The Sanyo electronics maker is out, and the Gulliver automobile dealership chain will take over.

New York Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui is a pitchman in TV commercials and print ads for Gulliver.

Some fans have asked if there will be a free ticket giveaway game for the foreign community at Tokyo Dome this season, but the answer is, unfortunately, no.

In the past, the Nippon Ham Fighters provided the freebies for their “Yankees Day” or “Diamondbacks Day” promotions when the team was based in Tokyo and had working relationships with the major league teams from New York and Arizona.

However, the Fighters are now Hokkaido Nippon Ham, franchised in Sapporo, and they do not need to give away free tickets, even when they play a handful of home games in Tokyo.

Sorry, but that fun day we enjoyed for more than 20 years will be no more.

If you want to see the Fighters at Tokyo Dome (and pay your way in), you should know they will host the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks there in a three-game series April 20-22.

Game times are 6 p.m. on Friday night, and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

In another home-away-from-home series, the Yomiuri Giants will be playing the Hiroshima Carp at Skymark Stadium in Kobe on April 17, and at Kyocera Osaka Dome on April 18-19.

The Giants will also play as the home team against the Yokohama BayStars at Fullcast Stadium Miyagi, home of the Rakuten Eagles in Sendai, on April 24.

I’ll be bringing my down jacket to that one.

Finally this week, remember I wrote a few months ago, complaining about the change for the worse in the pizza sold at Fukuoka Yahoo JAPAN Dome?

There is more bad news. Pizza is no longer available at Tokyo Dome.

A girl at one of the concession stands where pizza had been on the menu since the Big Egg opened in 1988 said the contract between the stadium and Pizza Hut, which supplied slices of their deluxe variety, had expired at the end of March and was apparently not renewed.

Hopefully Domino’s, Little Caesar’s or another chain will move in with a tasty selection and put pizza back in the ballpark, so happy days will be here again.

Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wayne@JapanBall.com