Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Capuano admires Japanese approach, eager to scratch NPB itch


Coming off two solid starts for the MLB squad during its current tour of Japan, journeyman left-hander Chris Capuano is more eager than ever to satisfy his longtime interest and pitch in Japan.

The 36-year-old Capuano has been leaning this way since visiting Japan with the last MLB All-Star squad to visit these shores in 2006. He became thoroughly hooked after reading about the philosophy of Japanese archery. And now that he is out of contract following a season split between the American League’s Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, Japanese clubs have reportedly been interested in signing him. Should that call come, expect Capuano to answer.

“My wife and I love Japan. We love the food. We love the culture. I like the style of baseball. It kind of jibes with what I believe. So I’m very interested in playing here,” he told Kyodo News on Tuesday before Game 5 of the Japan-MLB All-Star series at Sapporo Dome.

“We’re certainly considering playing here. I love the diligence and the precision in their daily workouts and their warmups. They’re out here for about an hour stretching, doing a lot of things to get ready to play. I always put a lot of time into that. I’m not old, but I am 36. I’m very careful about how I take care of my body and warm up. I just love how mindful they are about everything they do when they practice. They really kind of focus on every throw and they’re always trying to accomplish something.”

Capuano, who has a career record of 76-87 with six different teams over 10 years, worked four scoreless innings in a warmup game against a combined squad from the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants just two days after the big leaguers arrived. He won Game 4, on Sunday, allowing a run in five innings as the big leaguers earned their first victory against Japan’s national team.

“It piqued my interest coming over here then (in 2006),” Capuano said. “And I was given a book by a pitching coach, Rick Peterson, who has some ties over here as well. I read a book called “Zen and the Art of Archery,” by Eugen Herrigal. That introduced me to eastern thought. It was about archery and target-hitting but very applicable to pitching. It explained eastern philosophy and way of thought in a way that a westerner could really understand it. I read that book in 2010 after coming back from one of my surgeries.

“Since then, I’ve thought a lot about Japan and now seeing the quality of baseball and really getting to experience some of the culture, the clean cities, the food — everything I’ve eaten has been so fresh and amazing. It makes it a very attractive place to come.”

Japan pitching coach Yoshitaka Katori said Capuano could be a plus for a club in Nippon Professional Baseball.

“He’s the kind of pitcher who seems able to exploit different situations, a well-balanced pitcher,” Katori said. “It all depends on whether there’s a place for him to play. I think he’s capable of getting good results.”

Having played with half a dozen Japanese players in the big leagues, Capuano said the man who really stands out is Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, his teammate for just a brief time last year.

“Kuroda impressed me the most, being 39 and the way he takes care of his body and he’s still so competitive at that age, and guys like Ichiro, they’re just true professionals,” Capuano said. “They really take care of themselves. They’re conscious of that they eat and how they work and that helps give them that longevity, which is something we all strive for.

“The way he (Kuroda) worked and his style of pitching and the longevity that he has and being able to still be very strong — seemingly like he could do it forever. I know he’s thinking about retiring, but I hope he doesn’t because he’s still so good and on his game.”

Capuano’s wife, too, appears to be all in with a possible move to Japan.

“She (my wife) is very into horseback riding,” he said. “She does jumpers back home. She’s already been looking at different places around here, so hopefully there’d be something for both of us.”