Baseball / MLB

New Mariner Yusei Kikuchi departs for first major league camp

Kyodo

New Seattle Mariners pitcher Yusei Kikuchi left Japan on Sunday ahead of his first spring training in the major leagues, declaring his determination to earn and hold onto a spot in his team’s starting pitching rotation.

“At last it feels like I’m doing this,” Kikuchi told reporters at Osaka’s Kansai International Airport. “I want to play with a sense of gratitude toward the many people in Japan who have supported me these past 27 years.”

Japan’s top left-handed starting pitcher, Kikuchi signed a three-year guaranteed contract with the Mariners on Jan. 2 after his Pacific League club, the Seibu Lions, agreed to post him last autumn.

Since he returned to Japan early last month, the 27-year-old has been working out on the island of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture.

“I’ve become pretty used to my new (major league) ball. I was able to make some good adjustments,” said Kikuchi, who a Feb. 1 article on MLB.com included — alongside compatriot Yu Darvish — among a list of candidates to win a Cy Young Award this year

“I feel it’s my responsibility to hold down a spot in the middle of the rotation this year. I want to quickly blend in with the Mariners and meet the expectations that I perform well.”

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