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Fighters stake hopes on resurgent Glynn

by Kaz Nagatsuka

OSAKA — While the Pacific League champion Seibu Lions open the second stage of the Pacific League Climax Series with a one-win advantage, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters know they can’t afford to observe how the Saitama club is going to play.

That being said, the Fighters’ Game 1 starter, Ryan Glynn, will have enormous pressure and responsibility on his shoulders when he goes to the mound in Game 1 at Omiya Prefectural Stadium on Friday.

A 33-year-old right-hander from Portsmouth, Va., Glynn had a rocky season for most of the 2008 campaign, due in part to a lack of offensive support.

His struggles began on Opening Day and continued as he took a league-worst 14 losses (against seven wins) during the regular season.

Although there were convincing reasons to give Darvish an extra day of rest so he can start Game 2 with his typical six-day interval intact, not to mention he also has a tendency not to pitch as well at non-dome venues, Fighters manager Masataka Nashida has concrete confidence in Glynn.

Glynn dramatically snapped out of his early-season slump during the summer and regained his form toward the end of the season. He was 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA in his last seven starts.

Asked what made his late-season resurgence possible before Game 2 of the first stage of the PLCS at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome on Sunday, Glynn said: “I always prepare hard. I always prepare well. I’m a big believer in not changing what you believe in, and I use the same routine I used last year. I knew that eventually it would click.

“We as players become impatient, and I understand that everybody goes through a little bump in the road, and it’s how you handle that bump in the road that reflects on the kind of player that you are.”

Glynn said he found there was something wrong in his mechanics in May and June. But once he got the kinks worked out, he began to pitch like he did last season, when he was third in the league in ERA at 2.21 and was named the MVP of the interleague campaign.

“In late July, I started getting better,” Glynn said. “I did not feel comfortable in my motion.”

Indeed, Glynn’s pitching mechanics affected his confidence.

“If you’re not comfortable with the way you feel . . . it totally affects your mental state in that you’re concentrating more on what you’re doing here (pointing his head) than on getting the out.

“I think when I started to feel better mechanically, I started to compete better.”

In a bit of a surprising move, Nashida started lefty Shugo Fujii, who went 3-8 during the season, in Game 2 of the first stage of the PLCS against the Orix Buffaloes last weekend. But Fujii responded with six innings of one-run ball in the 7-2 win.

Likewise, the soft-spoken manager will send Glynn to the hill against Seibu with the same kind of conviction.

“We’ll go with Glynn. He’s been pitching as well as Darvish, and we expect him to do well,” Nashida told reporters at the team’s farm facility in Kamagaya, Chiba Pref., on Wednesday.