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Maeda in spotlight as MLB teams mull options

by

Kyodo

With the haggling for posted Hiroshima Carp ace Kenta Maeda set to start, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings that the two-time Sawamura Award winner was an intriguing option for big league clubs.

“We looked at the video. I mean, we have interest in a player like this. Every club I think is intrigued by him,” Bochy said. “But I can’t tell you how much interest is going to be there with ownership. A lot depends on where you are at with the budget and those things, but certainly a great talent.”

Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell has seen more than video, having managed a squad of major leaguers who toured Japan a year ago for a series against the Japanese national team.

“(He’s) a polished pitcher, when you consider the number of types of pitches, the definition of the pitches that he can throw,” Farrell said. “I was impressed with — and surprisingly, there was more velocity than anticipated to his fastball. He pitched an extremely strong game against us, and I know that’s one game look, but to see one game in person, from a physical standpoint, there was more stuff, more power, more velocity than maybe advertised.”

One major league source who has been observing the 27-year-old right-hander for some years sees Maeda as a smart pitcher who has the ability to make the necessary adjustments.

“He knows himself as a pitcher and I’ve seen him when he doesn’t have his best stuff on a given day and he still gives you the opportunity to win. Maeda can figure a way to get off the bat head and get outs,” said the source, who asked not to be named.

“His strength is (locating) to the bat, rather than away from the bat, unlike (Nippon Ham Fighters ace Shohei) Otani, who is 10-12 strikeouts per game. Maeda is going to get six to eight (strikeouts) and more ground balls.

“Do we know how he’s going to perform? No, not until the lights go on. But if anybody can make the adjustments mentally, he can.”

There was talk on Tuesday about reducing second-base collisions, a facet of major league play that has been a hurdle for Japanese middle infielders moving to the big leagues.

Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said he favored a situation where runners from first base would still have a chance to break up double plays with less risk of injury.

“(That) doesn’t mean we’re not going to have collisions or guys landing on their rear ends at second base, but you know, I think we could try or I’d like to see us try to keep guys on the field,” said Torre, who was instrumental in clarifying rules that have reduced home plate collisions — changes Nippon Professional Baseball will adopt next season.

Any change to the current situation is, however, just in the discussion phase.