WEST PALM BEACH — Considering he didn’t throw even one of his signature splitters, better known in Japan as his ghost fork, and evaluated by scouts as his strikeout pitch, Kodai Senga had an impressive outing here Thursday night, racking up five K’s in his three innings of work against the Nationals.
The only concern would be that he avoided throwing the splitter because of the tendinitis on his right index finger that caused him to be scratched from his start last Saturday.
Senga said that wasn’t the case. He said the finger felt fine.
Nevertheless he might be trying to protect it from flaring up again, even while getting the work he needs to be ready for the season. Senga did indicate that he is still getting “treatment and training” that is helping him adjust to the baseball here, which is slightly bigger than the one he pitched with in Japan.
That size difference could have been a factor in the original injury, as he presumably has to split his fingers wider than he did in Japan to throw an effective splitter with the MLB ball.
Buck Showalter said he wasn’t concerned, noting that the pitchers he’s had experience with from Japan in the past have all been able to make the adjustment.
“I think he’ll do it too,” Showalter said of Senga.
In any case, when asked why he didn’t throw the splitter, Senga explained through his interpreter, “The cutter and sweeper-slider are new grips that I developed this past off-season. Going into this outing, those are the pitches I wanted to work on. It happened naturally.”
If so and he’ll have that splitter available when he needs it as he gets closer to the season, Senga offered evidence as to how he can dominate a lineup by keeping hitters off-balance with an array of pitches at various speeds.
Or as Showalter said afterward, “The guy’s got a talented hand. He can do a lot of things with the baseball.”
Even without using the splitter, Senga’s velocity on his various pitches ranged from 81 mph on that sweeper-slider to 97 when he wanted to max out on his fastball
And unofficially it seemed he hit just about every speed in between, pitching like a wily veteran, adding and subtracting velocity on his breaking stuff as well as his fastball, which varied from 92 to 97.
“That’s what I’m…
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