[NPB NOTEBOOK] Former major league player Freddy Galvis struggles to find his groove in Japan

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The transition to Nippon Professional Baseball is never easy, even for experienced major leaguers.

Among other things, the fact that Japanese pitchers throw more off-speed pitches than their Major League Baseball counterparts is cited as one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.

Then there are the different cultural differences off the pitch that you have to deal with.

Former Philadelphia Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis is the latest former MLB player to wrestle in Japan.

The Pacific League’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks sent the struggling shortstop to their farm team on Monday, May 2 after getting off to a slow start that included a .129 batting average and just one home run and four RBIs. in his first 22 games. .

“It was a tough decision,” said SoftBank coach Hiroyuki Mori. “We were concerned that his motivation would diminish if he was taken out of games, so best to send him to where he can get some regular at-bats and hopefully get his groove back.”

Galvis, 32, who also has MLB experience with the San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, was one of the biggest signings of the offseason. among the NPB teams and came to Japan with high expectations.

Over 12 MLB seasons. The Venezuela native has a career batting average of .246 with 109 home runs and 426 RBIs.

Sending a player to the farm can do wonders. Just ask Sho Nakata of the Yomiuri Giants.

Nakata was struggling with a .188 batting average and two home runs in 22 games for the top team.

Since the Giants sent him to the farm, the 33-year-old infielder has hit five homers in five games through May 3.

It happens youoh the best

Orix Buffaloes ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto was one of the best pitchers in Japanese baseball last season, going 18-5 with a 1.39 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 26 games.

He also added a gold medal to his long list of accomplishments when he helped Japan reach the podium in the baseball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

But this Tuesday, May 3, the 23-year-old right-hander showed that he was only human.

In a game against the Hawks, Yamamoto was scored for seven runs on 10 hits over 5⅓ innings, his worst outing as a pro.

All seven races included a grand slam awarded to SoftBank’s Yuki Yanagita.

Yamamoto is 3-2 this season with a 2.34 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six games.

For Yamamoto, the game against the Hawks was the first time since May 28, 2021 that it failed to produce a quality start that is defined as three or fewer earned runs over six or more innings.

Tanaka reaches 1,500 innings

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles pitcher Masahiro Tanaka took an impressive step into winning fashion on Tuesday.

The 33-year-old right-hander worked eight scoreless innings to claim victory as the Pacific League leaders Eagles beat the Hokkaido Nipponham Fighters 2-1 at the Sapporo Dome.

In the first inning of this game, Tanaka recorded his 1,500th inning in Nippon Professional Baseball. An impressive number considering he spent seven years in MLB with the New York Yankees.

Tanaka is from Hyogo Prefecture but started the high school prom in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.

“I think it was fate that allowed me to take this step in Hokkaido,” Tanaka said as quoted by Kyodo News. “It’s been a while since I pitched here, but I have so many fond memories of Hokkaido and this stadium.”

With the win, Tanaka moved to 3-1 for the top-flight Eagles. After modest results in his return to NPB last season, Tanaka is showing signs that he is back to his dominant self.

Okamoto on fire

Yomiuri Giants cleanup hitter Kazuma Okamoto is off to an impressive start for the Central League’s leading team.

Through Thursday, May 5, Okamoto already has 11 home runs, 28 RBIs and 18 runs scored, numbers that indicate he could be having his best season yet.

The 26-year-old infielder hit 39 homers and 113 RBIs last season to win the CL homerun and RBI titles for the second straight year.

Okamoto has 146 home runs since his first season with the Giants in 2015.

His breakout season was 2018 when he hit 33 dingers.

It’s fair to say the Giants haven’t had this much power since Hideki Matsui played for them between 1993 and 2002, during which time he hit 332 homers.

Impressive beginnings

Right-hander Drew Anderson launched his NPB career in style on Thursday, May 5.

Anderson flirted with a no-hitter en route to his first win for the Hiroshima Carp in a 3-0 decision over the Giants.

The 28-year-old Nevada native struck out seven and allowed just one hit and no walks in seven innings.

Before signing with the Carp last year, Anderson pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox and Texas Rangers.

Anderson’s season has been suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions. It took more than a month into the season before his first start.

“He was a little nervous, but it was a great shot,” Hiroshima manager Shinji Sasaoka said. “He took a big step to earn a place in the rotation.”

The win also saw Carp retire just 1½ games behind the top-ranked Giants.

Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles here.

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