CHIBA - Hideaki Wakui’s fresh start with the Chiba Lotte Marines hit a rough patch on Wednesday, when the right-hander surrendered eight runs in five innings in a 12-5 preseason loss to the Yomiuri Giants.
The 27-year-old former Lions ace joined Lotte in the offseason as a free agent after struggling to stay in Seibu’s starting rotation the past two seasons. Against the Giants, Wakui allowed nine hits while striking out three in his first game with the Marines at QVC Marine Field.
“My arm action was a little weak,” said Wakui, a former Sawamura Award winner who has twice led the Pacific League in wins. “I threw fat pitches to the batters at the bottom of the order.”
Wakui got off to a good start, but Giants captain Shinnosuke Abe drove a breaking ball into the stands in right. In the third inning, former Lions teammate Yasuyuki Kataoka doubled to spark a two-run Yomiuri outburst. Back-to-back fifth-inning hits by the last two Giants batters set the stage for a five-run rally.
Wakui lacked command of his fastball and served up pitches that lacked zip and location.
“I missed some locations and threw some hittable pitches,” Wakui said.
Although he entered Wednesday’s game having allowed two runs over seven innings in two games, Wakui’s fastball has lacked authority, and it maxed out at 142 kph against the Giants. His difficulties might stem from adjustments made at the end of last season, when he was asked to save games in relief for the Lions, but Marines manager Tsutomu Ito is understandably concerned.
“His form is not improving,” said Ito, who was also Wakui’s first manager with the Lions. “If he’s still this way on Opening Day, it would be a cause for concern.”
Although Ito is edgy about his pitcher’s progress with more than two weeks remaining before the season starts on March 28, Wakui appeared upbeat.
“From next time on, I just want to focus on getting results,” he said.