Yomiuri Giants pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi became the team’s 17th player rep during the offseason. In 2010, the Giants will be asking him to shoulder a little more of the load on the mound as well.
The Giants are set to ramp up the search for starting pitching depth from within the organization and the onus will be on Utsumi to step forward and take charge.
Yomiuri has a pair of quality arms in Dicky Gonzalez and Seth Greisinger, but the rest of rotation is a question mark.
The Giants want more production out of their Japanese pitchers, putting a bull’s-eye square on the back of the 27-year-old as spring training draws near.
Utsumi is coming off an up-and-down year which ended with him as the winning pitcher in the final game of the Japan Series. He finished the regular season 9-11 with a 2.96 ERA and was 1-1 in the playoffs.
But that may not be enough to satisfy new pitching coach Masaki Saito.
Upset that the Gonzalez (15-2) and Greisinger (13-6) accounted for most of the Giants’ wins last year, Saito wasted little time calling on Utsumi to pull his weight and produce 15 wins this season.
Saito has promised to take a hardline stance with the Yomiuri pitchers, so spots in the rotation could turn into a survival of the fittest.
Besides Gonzalez and Greisinger, Wirfin Obispo, Shun Tono and left-handers Tetsuya Yamaguchi and Shugo Fujii should also figure into the equation.
Working in Utsumi’s favor is that he has been an innings eater over the the past few years. The lefty worked 179 2/3 innings last season.
What the Giants want now is for Utsumi to turn those innings into a few more wins as the team prepares to defend its most recent Japan Series crown.
Utsumi has posted an above .500 record just twice in six seasons and is 51-48 with a 3.19 ERA overall.
So far, his best year was 2007 when he went 14-7 with a 3.02 ERA in 28 starts.
Utsumi can be a terror on the mound when everything’s clicking, but things fall apart when his control is off.
The problem is sometimes it’s hard to know which Utsumi is going to show up on a given day.
By setting a target of 15 wins, the Giants are saying that after six seasons it’s time for Utsumi to become the frontline pitcher that at times he’s shown he is capable of being.