/

Greisinger eager to make season debut against Giants

Veteran hurler healthy again after shoulder injury

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Seth Greisinger will make his first start of the season on Wednesday at Tokyo Dome. Not that it matters all that much to the Chiba Lotte Marines right-hander, who is embarking on his seventh year in Japan. After battling his way back from an injury to his right shoulder, Greisinger is just happy to be out there at all, no matter the venue.

“It’s going to be fun,” Greisinger said prior to Lotte’s game against the Yomiuri Giants on Tuesday. “I’m more excited about it being my first game of the season than about pitching against the Giants. It’s never fun rehabbing when you’re injured. I’m excited to pitch in a game that counts.”

The Marines were cautious with Greisinger during the spring and opted to have him begin the year with the ni-gun team to avoid rushing him back into action too soon. While there he got his shoulder back into playing shape and worked with Lotte’s Eastern League team.

He made his most recent start on the farm on May 8, throwing six scoreless innings against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ ni-gun squad, saying he felt great afterward. He’s hoping that carries over to his 2013 ichi-gun debut.

“It was good,” Greisinger said of his latest ni-gun performance. “It was six innings, about 92 pitches, and I felt really good that outing. So If I can continue to improve, hopefully I won’t have any more setbacks.”

He couldn’t have asked for a better test in his first top-team start of the year.

The Giants are 24-13-2 and have looked like the class of Japanese baseball during the first part of the season. Their 168 runs are the third-most in Japan, behind only the Seibu Lions (172). The Kyojinalso lead Japan with 44 home runs and are the only team with more than 40. The Giants solid at home this at Tokyo Dome where they’re 16-5-1, after Tuesday’s loss to the Marines.

Greisinger should be more than familiar with what Yomiuri brings to the table. He was a 17-game winner for the Giants in 2008 and spent the next three seasons with the team before signing with Lotte as a free agent after the 2011 season. The Giants have made a few changes since Greisinger was last with the team, but he still has an idea of what to expect.

“They’re still the Giants, so there’s a lot of guys in their lineup you have to be careful of,” he said. “The last time I pitched against them was my first year over here (with Yakult in 2007), so a lot has changed since then. I’m sure they have a really good scouting report on me because they saw me pitch for four years. But they have a lot of guys who can do a lot of damage. So I’m going to have to try to keep the ball down.”

Greisinger was 12-8 with a 2.24 ERA for the Marines last season. He began his career in Japan with the Swallows in 2007, after spending the previous season with the Kia Tigers in the Korea Baseball Organization. He led the CL in wins during each of his first two years in Japan, and helped the Giants win CL pennants in 2008 and 2009, the latter of which was followed by a Japan Series triumph.

Overall, Greisinger is 59-38 with a 3.04 ERA and 578 strikeouts in six seasons in Japan.

He’s returning to a Marines team that’s gotten off to a hot start and has won nine of the first 10 games they’ve played this month.

“They’ve been playing great,” Greisinger said. “It’s really impressive. A lot of the young pitchers and players have been playing really well. Some of the older guys have been playing really well also. Just seems like the team is working really well together.”

Lotte entered the interleague portion of the schedule in first place in the Pacific League with a 22-14 record. The Marines’ surprising start has been fueled by contributions from a number of players, and Greisinger is ready to begin playing his role.

“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Today, I don’t have any nerves. Maybe tomorrow I will. The main thing is just staying healthy. If I can stay healthy, I’ll have fun and hopefully pitch well. That’s the main thing, just seeing how my arm feels and getting out there and giving out team a chance to win. First-place team against first-place team, these are two important games.”