The nerves began to kick in shortly after Ryosuke Miyaguni’s first pitch to Jemile Weeks.
The Yomiuri pitcher tried to shake the feeling, but the enormity of the moment refused to be ignored.
A little over two years ago, Miyaguni was playing among his peers as a high schooler in Okinawa. On Sunday, at 19 years old, he stood on the mound at Tokyo Dome, with the leadoff man of the Oakland A’s staring back at him from the batter’s box.
The nerves did their best to shake the young pitcher, to rattle him, throw him off balance. It was an exhibition, but a lot was riding on his performance, possibly a spot in the Opening Day rotation.
Miyaguni has already been the subject of a brief television special and intense media scrutiny without having yet thrown a regular-season pitch.
Kyojin manager Tatsunori Hara has said he expects Miyaguni to play a large role in the Giants’ future and fans have clamored to catch glimpses of him this spring.
So with all eyes once again on him, Miyaguni provided the Giants with a glimpse of his promise.
He survived in the early going against Oakland and found his rhythm late, going on to strike out nine — while allowing one run on three hits over five innings — in a very good outing.
“I couldn’t find my tempo in the first two innings,” Miyaguni said. “But from the third inning on, I was able to find my tempo and pitch a real good game.”
The A’s knew next to nothing about Miyaguni going in, so the pitcher certainly held the advantage, but came away with a positive impression.
“I was very impressed,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He had a good split, located his fastball and he had a slider. Very impressed.”
While it was just one start, it gave Miyaguni the opportunity to showcase his talents and make a case for a spot in the rotation.
“Miyaguni is a second year pitcher, a very young pitcher, and still he matched up nicely against a very good major league baseball club,” Hara said. “I also found some bad points in his outing. As I was watching him, I was a little concerned, but he pitched much better than I expected.
“The only concern is that he doesn’t have much experience. As a manager I’m sure that he’s ready to compete with anyone. Actually, he lived up to my expectations.”
The Giants have a surplus of starting pitching, and the first five spots in the rotation appear have been locked down by Tetsuya Utsumi, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Hirokazu Sawamura, D.J. Houlton, and Shun Tono.
That leaves Miyaguni and veteran Dicky Gonzalez to vie for the final spot.
“He gave me a very good impression with his performance,” Hara said of Miyaguni’s outing against Oakland. “If he makes the rotation, it’ll be in the fifth or sixth spot. I’m not ready to make that decision right now. He made good progress.”
In what may be his final audition, Miyaguni acquitted himself well, and didn’t let the fact he was facing a major league team intimidate him.
“I thought he did a great job of keeping us off balance,” said Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki. “Good split-finger, and good command. He pitched well tonight.”