Kawakami debuts for Braves

 Bradenton, Fla. –- This is a story Bobby Cox has told a couple of times this week, with a smile that says, this is one that will be told for years.

  It was early in the morning last Sunday at Champion Stadium when the Braves manager arrived in the clubhouse and ran into Kenshin Kawakami and his interpreter Daichi Takasue.

  Bobby was surprised to see them, since players were getting their physicals that day and the team workout was to start three hours later than usual.

  “What are you doing here?” Bobby asked.

  “Physical,” Takasue answered.

  “Not here,” Bobby said, and explained to them that the clinic where players got their physicals was on the other side of Kissimmee, perhaps a 20-minute drive. Then he got directions for them.

  “One more problem,” Takasue said.

  “What?” Bobby asked.

  “No gas,” Takasue said, explaining that their rental car was low on fuel.

  “How much do you have,” asked Bobby, who handles such situations with a hell of a lot more patience than most of us.

  Bobby said Takasue replied, “We approximate 18 miles.”

  And with that, the manager gave them the keys to his own rental car and told them to take it.

  Which they did.

  Kawakami passed his physical.

  The 33-year-old Japanese pitcher faces his next “test,” as it were, today here at venerable McEchnie Field in Bradenton, where Kawakami makes his Braves debut with a Grapefruit League start against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

  He’s scheduled to work two innings, like all Braves starters do in their first appearance of the spring.

  He’s No. 11 in your programs, No. 1 in the hearts of Braves fans in Chunichi where Kawakami compiled a 112-72 record and 3.22 ERA in 257 games (including 29 complete games) over the past 11 seasons for the Chunichi Dragons in that city.

  The former Japan Central League MVP and winner of the 2004 Sawamura Award (their Cy Young Award), Kawakami has about a dozen Japanese media following him on a daily basis. They are all here today, plus about 15-18 others who’ve been covering the Red Sox and Yankees, all coming over to see K.K.

  This is very significant to them, and to the Braves.

  It’s the second anticipated debut in as many days for an Atlanta pitcher, after top prospect Tommy Hanson pitched two innings yesterday against the Astros.

  This one isn’t on that level of significance, perhaps, for most fans, because Hanson is 11 years younger, was signed and developed by the Braves, and figures to be a very big part of their future for a lot of years.

  But this is still big, no doubt. Kawakami is the first Japanese player to wear a Braves major league uniform, and they signed him to a three-year, $23 million contract this winter after he was pursued by a lot of other teams, including the Boston Red Sox.

  He’ll fit somewhere in the middle of the Braves’ rotation, probably No. 3 or No. 4, and the Braves are counting on him.

  “I’m very anxious to see him pitch in games,” said Cox, who’s raved about Kawakami’s work in the bullpen, particularly his excellent location and big curveball.

  “He’s kind of like Catfish [Hunter],” Cox said, “in the way that he doesn’t walk a lot of people, but is willing to give up a homer sometimes.”

  But just as Cox didn’t put much, if any, importance on the final pitching line yesterday for Hanson (two innings, two hits, two runs, one walk, two strikeouts), he won’t get concerned or excited about the numbers that Kawakami produces today.

 When you’ve managed in the bigs for 28 seasons, you know that Feb. 27 pitching lines mean next to nothing in the bigger picture.

  “It’s spring training,” said Cox, who loved what he saw of Hanson, particularly the movement on his fastball, which was clocked consistently at 95-96 mph and touched 99 mph once.

  “Get his work in and don’t worry about,” Cox said of what he wanted Kawakami to do today. “You get ‘em out, you don’t get ‘em out, it’s spring training. We’re here to get ready for opening day.”

  OK, I know you folks can’t watch the way you could yesterday, when that game was on ESPN. So we’ll try to give you some updates.

  Gotta keep this short because game’s about to start.

  Oh, and remind me to tell you sometime about the stop I made on the ride over, when I got coffee, gas and a lighter at a B.P. station outside Polk City that had showers (it was a truck stop).

   And on my way out of the station, a group of Mennonites walked in.

  There is no punchline. In fact, there is nothing more to the story.

  So nevermind the part about asking me later. I guess I just found it amusing at the time, the juxtaposition or whatever.

  Then I went to my car and fired up a mighty fine Punch cigar for the rest of the drive over.

 

“I CAN’T STAND ME” by Merle Haggard

I can’t stand me since I lost you

and I can’t stand nobody else

I can’t stand me since you went away

and I gotta get away from myself

 

I used to be a high-stepper with a lot on the ball

my friends all called me Ace

It took a woman like you to bring a good man down

And make me ashamed to even show my face

I can’t stand me since I lost you…

 

Oh when I look in the glass and see a grown man cry it makes me wanna hang my head

I used to feel real proud just to be alive but now I think I’d rather be dead

I can’t stand me since I lost you…

 

I’m gonna find me a river about ten miles wide

with a bridge right all way cross

I’m gonna drag myself about half way over

 and then I’m gonna throw me off

I can’t stand me since I lost you…

Yeah I gotta get away from myself

895 comments Add your comment

Matt

February 27th, 2009
1:09 pm

GA leading off and playing centerfield. Wow I bet he hasn’t been in either spot in a long time.

dogsbrekky

February 27th, 2009
1:10 pm

Is this game on any RADIO station today ??

HeywardTheFuture

February 27th, 2009
1:11 pm

how many brain surgeons does it take to figure out the misprinted the name and that it’s really Josh Anderson?

braves4ever

February 27th, 2009
1:13 pm

Wow this feels like a new pair of shoes,

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:14 pm

Forgot to post the lineup, which yesterday seemed to mess up the typeface for the rest of the blog beneath it anyway, so maybe it’s best I did forget.

Here it is (Braves just went down 1-2-3 in first inning, Kawakami warming up now)

1. Josh Anderson, CF; 2. Omar Infante, SS; 3. Chipper Jones, 3B; 4. Brian McCann, C; 5. Jeff Francoeur, RF; 6. Matt Diaz, LF; 7. Freddie Freeman, 1B; 8. Greg Norton, DH; 9. Diory Hernandez, 2B.

PIRATES:
1. Nate McLouth, CF; 2. Jack Wilson, SS; 3. Freddy Sanchez, 2B; 4. Ryan Doumit, C; 5. Adam LaRoche, 1B: 6. Eric Hinske, DH; 7. Jose Tabata, RF; 8. Ramon Vazquez, 3B; 9. Jeff Salazar, LF.

… Kawakami’s first pitch: A fastball down the middle taken for Strike 1.

Andrew

February 27th, 2009
1:14 pm

that is a very funny kawakami story..its going to interesting with him this year..bobby’s the man

i cant take it anymore

February 27th, 2009
1:15 pm

whats a brain surgeon?

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:16 pm

McLouth grounded out to first to lead off.

PTBNL

February 27th, 2009
1:17 pm

From last blog….

Slugger, as you have described, yes, we are very much in agreement…. including the “throw the hands” method. Though I am aware that it can be used to correct some hitting illnesses… as a mental picture, it is not really accurate and is not an ideal hitting method.

Ease19, Anders mentioned it yesterday when he was here. Of course, he knew it before anyone else here did.

TheManMike

February 27th, 2009
1:17 pm

Let me thank DOB and anyone else who offers the play-by-play for todays game…….ITS IS MUCH APPRECIATED!!! seriously.

ease19

February 27th, 2009
1:17 pm

MinnesotaJacket

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

Im so glad are offense still has done little to nothing at the beginning of games haha….jeez…

BravesFan

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

AJones with Rangers 0 for 3 with 3 Ks.

macdwolfpack

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

Dave, thanks for the play by play can’t find the game on anywhere and much appreciate the play by play postings.

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

Jack Wilson fly to shallow CF for second out.

Kawakami paints a fastball on outside corner first-pitch strike to Sanchez, who pops out to CF for third out.

MinnesotaJacket

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

I agree with Mike on that…will be here late today at work..

KC

February 27th, 2009
1:18 pm

DWW, thanks for the radio info.

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

13 pitches/9 strikes for Kawakami-san in first inning

TheManMike

February 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

How are the faces looking like for the first few batters compared to the faces of hitters against Hanson?

Steve

February 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

yeah this is great…so many positives out of Spring Training this year…just reading the updates on Hanson yesterday…I couldn’t watch it here in Canada…with Kenshin pictching today…so many positives…A big turnaround from some of the negative talk from the off-season…This team could be on the verge on a special season…

TheManMike

February 27th, 2009
1:19 pm

Kawakami-san……Love it.

MinnesotaJacket

February 27th, 2009
1:20 pm

not to bad a start…(even though its the pirates)…the first time we haven’t started off trailing in the first inning haha

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:21 pm

McCann won’t be going to Dunedin tomorrow (he was originally schedued to). He wanted to stay back at Dark Star and do a ton of hitting before he reports to U.S. WBC camp on Sunday, and Bobby said no problem.

Only regulars making trip tomorrow are K.J., Escobar, Kotchman and Josh Anderson.

DWW

February 27th, 2009
1:21 pm

kawakami… lock for 09 cy young

i cant take it anymore

February 27th, 2009
1:22 pm

Thanks for the update, David.
is the Japanese media going nuts with the flashbulbs?

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:22 pm

Speaking of McCann, he just drew a leadoff walk in second inning, bringing up Francoeur….

Francoeur takes first-pitch ball.

McFann :Ô:

February 27th, 2009
1:22 pm

Thanks for the play-by-play! Mac’s coming up now, right??

Petey had a good bath. He really loves them (actually, theyre more like showers, ’cause we use a spritzer bottle, but anyway…)

TBraveFan

Petey does that loud “alert” thing, too. Baby Bird is a cockatiel, too, right?

toga party

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Big booooo on the lack of audio on mlb.tv. Are the Pirates radio guys not broadcasting either?

Steve

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Hey DOB…any idea when G. Anderson will get in the line-up?

Renegator

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

I wish we could see Kawakami pitch today…

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Francoeur took ball 2, that’s six consecutive balls by LH Tom Gorzelanny to start the inning…

Make that seven, it’s 3-0 count….

dogsbrekky

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Excellent play by plays, thanks DOBI 1 K – NOBI

Renegator

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Enter your comments here

DWW

February 27th, 2009
1:23 pm

Francoeur did what???

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:24 pm

I wish I wasn’t such a cheapskate when it comes to mlb.tv

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:24 pm

Finally threw a strike, which Francoeur took on 3-0.

Now he’s walked him on five pitches. When’s last time Francoeur didn’t swing the bat in a five-pitch plate appearance?

GTSteve

February 27th, 2009
1:24 pm

I have a fun idea for the blog during the game today, in honor of ManRam , lets think of things we would not do for 25 mill a year. I seem to be drawing a blank right now.

McFann :Ô:

February 27th, 2009
1:25 pm

Lead off walk? Nice. That gives him an OBP of .500–2 walks in 4 PA. Still only one official at bat. Good to read he’s gonna get some hitting done tomorrow.

Renegator

February 27th, 2009
1:25 pm

Sorry about the double post. Still getting used to this new system.

Trbodawg

February 27th, 2009
1:25 pm

You can get play by play at http://m.mlb.com/scores/plays/2009_02_27_atlmlb_pitmlb_1/1 – you just have to refresh the screen periodically….

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:25 pm

Well that’s a promising at-bat for Frenchy! Ha! A guy will never get so many good comments for taking a walk than Frenchy.

Gibby

February 27th, 2009
1:26 pm

thanks D.O.B It is nice to follow along

brad

February 27th, 2009
1:26 pm

DOB-is there any significant trade value for Morton, Reyes, Campillo? I will leave Bennett and Parr off the list because I know the answer.

TDub

February 27th, 2009
1:26 pm

DOB, interested to hear your thoughts on Tabata, and Pedro Alvarez too if they play him today…

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

GTSteve- How about cheering for the Mets?

Nick Nunziata

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

Loving the DOB commentary track. Please keep it up!

Jackie Treehorn

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

Did Kawakami beat out Dice-K for the Japanese Cy Young Award in 2004, or were they in different leagues? Impressive if he did beat him.

BravesFan

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

Manny Ramirez is flat out stupid for turning down 2 years and $45 million. I would play for the worst team in the league and enjoy every bit of it for league minimum. I hope Manny retires because he doesn’t deserve another shot after turning the Dodgers down again.

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

Diaz has worked the count full, fouled off some pitches … and grounds into a 5-4-3 DP.

Confused

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

So who is in Center? Garret Anderson or Josh? DOB said Josh but the play by play says Garrett…

Renegator

February 27th, 2009
1:27 pm

Is it Garrett Anderson playing CF or Josh Anderson?

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Enter your comments here

GTSteve

February 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Ok , I might want 30 a year to do that…lol

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Freddie Freeman 4-3 groundout to end it. Gorzelanny escapes after walking first two guys.

PWHjort

February 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Francoeur drew a walk?

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:28 pm

Yeah no kidding! lol

ease19

February 27th, 2009
1:29 pm

Was it really Francoer, or so sort of alien impostor?

TDub

February 27th, 2009
1:29 pm

I’d settle for 45 million FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:29 pm

Hey yall, just in case there’s somebody who doesn’t know, MLB network’s 30 clubs/ 30 days program will do the Braves on Tuesday, March 2.

CincyBrave

February 27th, 2009
1:29 pm

BravesFan… Regarding the Manny contract, I think he is fine with the dollars and length, he just dosen’t want to money deferred (with no interest), which I totally understand. I would be upset if my boss told me I had to work this year but couldn’t get paid for it for a another 3 years.

bgvt

February 27th, 2009
1:30 pm

DOB:

I think it was June 21, 2007

Jackie Treehorn

February 27th, 2009
1:30 pm

Garrett Anderson is not a center fielder. Never has been. That’s Josh in center.

BravesFan

February 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

Manny is proof that most players are spoiled today. After the crap he pulled in Boston no one should have touched him. Also that 2 year deal was a player option on the second year so he could have a huge year for the Dodgers and leave for somewhere else. Idiot!

keylargo

February 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

Leading off and playing CF for the Braves – Gosh Anderson

BraveTiger

February 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

DOB – I know these are early games, but when the starting pitchers begin going 3-4 innings, will they start to bat so they can get in possible game situations?

lewie

February 27th, 2009
1:31 pm

kwakakakakaka is going to dominate

i just want to see that dookie 12-6 hook he’s got….some boys are going to look terrible swinging at that thing this season

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:32 pm

Doumit 6-3 grounded to start second inning.

dogsbrekky

February 27th, 2009
1:32 pm

How cheap are the Dodgers, they give away Lowe, Penny, Nomar etc etc and then they have the best chance in hell to make a winning year on and off the field and cheap ass McCourt wants to delay some payments to Manny, what for………… ?

lewie

February 27th, 2009
1:33 pm

KK is taking over

damn i wanna be watching this rightnow

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:33 pm

Ol’ Rochy takes 1-0 pitch for a strike, the hits a bloop single to shallow left just beyond the reach of Chipper running back and Infante running over at an angle. Weak single, no way they could get to it.

VolBrave

February 27th, 2009
1:33 pm

Does anyone know how Andruw is doing this spring? I know he’s with Texas on a minor league contract worth $500,000 but aside from that, has anyone seen him play or heard otherwise?

Random

February 27th, 2009
1:33 pm

Wayne in Utah (12:48 pm): “Actually, I hope he never signs. I hope the selfish you know what and his money grubbing agent lose their shirts on this one.

I have no patience or need for somebody who would lay down on his team, just to get a better deal. I just hope he gets what he deserves.”

Who you talkin about, Wayne?

Babe Ruth in 1919?

Or Joe Dimaggio in 1938?

Or maybe Curt Flood in 1970?

Your accusations above are equally valid to all three, you know.

Yer just a hater, Wayne — plain and simple.

PS: KC: “Does anyone know if today’s game is on local radio (in ATL)?”

Apparently not.

Here’s the braves.com radio broadcast schedule.

cabravesfan

February 27th, 2009
1:34 pm

dogsbrekky-

you answered your own question: “cheap ass McCourt…” pretty much sums him up

Patrick

February 27th, 2009
1:34 pm

Thanks for the play by play DOB.
It’s much appreciated!!

BravesFan

February 27th, 2009
1:34 pm

Andruw 0 for 3 with 3ks.

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:34 pm

Hey DOB, I’ve heard criticism of Kawa’s fastball. What are you observing with regards to his pitches?

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:35 pm

Beautiful first-pitch curveball to Pedro Alvarez, which he takes for a strike (he’s DHing in place of Hinske, scratched with a bruised chest).

Fly out to left field, out two.

BT

February 27th, 2009
1:35 pm

Did you say Frenchy took the first pitch for a ball?

TBraveFan

February 27th, 2009
1:35 pm

McFann (sorry I don’t know how to bold in the new format) — yep – he’s small for a cockatiel – about the size of a large parakeet actually. Totally hates bathing…and any other maintenance! LOL

DWW

February 27th, 2009
1:36 pm

DOB is doing play by play. No time to field questions. Keep it up DOB, and thanks.

Jackie Treehorn

February 27th, 2009
1:36 pm

Kawakami has MARBLES

GTSteve

February 27th, 2009
1:37 pm

Hey funny Andrew story, I think it was on AJC.COM, the last intrasquad game he hit a double and a home run……just to the left of the headline was the city that the story originates in…..they were in Suprise AZ….how appropriate

Shinnbone

February 27th, 2009
1:37 pm

DOB, insignificant detail, but a little correction. Chunichu Dragons are in Nagoya. Japanese baseball teams don’t have their home city names in their team names, but rather, their parent company names. This results in some really weird ones, like Soft Bank Hawks and Nippon Ham Fighters. I’ve seen the Fighters been referred to as “Ham Fighters,” but it’s really the FIghters owned by Nippon Ham.

Oh well in Japan, Stevie Ray Vaughan is often referred to as “Ray Vaughan,” so it goes both ways.

eltrompoBRAVESfan

February 27th, 2009
1:37 pm

He’s got time! He’s all-knowing, all-powerful!

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Runs count to full against Jose Tabata with runner at first base and two outs…. And strikes him out on a high fastball, swinging through it.

Folks, Kawakami-san looks very good.

toga party

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Wow, a pitcher couldn’t locate to the previous batter, and Frenchy laid off 5 straight pitches? And drew his first walk of ST? Nice. Now that’s encouraging.

If he hits to right field today, I’ll start taking some very small sips of the kool-aid.

DWW

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

TBraveFan
Can you and McFann get a private chat room for the bird talk? Thanks.

Runnin

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Yes, Frenchy took all 5 pitches in his walk, never swung.

Run Heap Run

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Oh yeah I forgot all about Manny….did he ever sign with anybody?

Thanks for the live updates, DOB.

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Kawakami threw 29 pitches, 18 strikes

cphizzle

February 27th, 2009
1:38 pm

Francouer to lead the league in walks this year…mark the words fellas

ease19

February 27th, 2009
1:39 pm

TBraveFan

YOUR TEXT but no spaces between strongs…

You guys need to send photos of your birds to Lew so he can sketch them…so we can see what they look like! :grin:

AL

February 27th, 2009
1:39 pm

Mets are playing St. Louis on MLB network. Mets up 3-0 and batting with 2 out in bottom of 2nd.

BrandonC

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

Good opener for Kawakami!

Jackie Treehorn

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

The only thing that scares me about this team is the fact Chipper said Francoeur was the key to us having a good season. That’s one step below Houston banking on Hampton to be the key to their success.

KC

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

DOB, out of curiosity, where is Kawakami on the radar gun?

TheManMike

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

I’m still vollying for Hot Sake at the Ted this season….maybe start it for only nights in which Kenshin starts……..?

David O'Brien

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

There are two TV cameramen and five still photographers in front of the Braves’ dugout between innings, capturing Kawakami’s every gesture and discussion.

Random

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

Baseball Prospectus’ Clay Davenport on Kenshin Kawakami (川上), 26 Feb:

Unfortunately for [the Orioles], as a starter [Koji Uehara]’s just another [question mark].

On the other hand, 川上 gives the Braves a more hopeful case, though still not without cause for some doubt.

For two of the last three years, 川上 has not pitched at the level of an above-average major league pitcher, though he did turn it around last year. If he struggles in the US, it will probably be because of his home-run tendencies (considering that the HR/9 column is set so that 1.0 is average). That’s a product of trying to get ahead in the count with an unimpressive fastball—hitters will have their chances to tee off on it. He’s been healthier than Uehara, but he did miss time with a back injury last season, as well as winding up spending some time with the Olympic team last summer.

*******************************************

Baseball Prospectus’ Clay Davenport on Kenshin Kawakami (川上), 20 Jan:

Kenshin Kawakami
DOB: 6/22/75 (33)
Height/Weight: 5-10/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Team: Chunichi Dragons, Central League, NPB

川上 has been one of Japan’s better pitchers over the last decade, with a string of honors that include an NPB Rookie of the Year award, an MVP award (in 2004), and a Sawamura Award (roughly the equivalent of our Cy Young Award). The scouting reports say that while his fastball is just average, he earns high marks for his cutter, his slow curveball, and his control. I can’t say I’m fond of the up-and-down pattern of his career, particularly since his three-year contract with the Braves is set to land on two of the down seasons were the pattern to persist.

There is a second reason for concern, however. Chunichi is regarded as a good pitchers’ park, and the translation process may not be doing an adequate job of rendering this. The pitchers who have pitched in both Chunichi and in the US since 2003 have a combined translated ERA of 5.15 in Chunichi, and 5.98 elsewhere. On the other hand, that stat comes from just five pitchers, only one of whom—Luis Martinez—pitched more than 80 innings in Chunichi. The translation makes 川上 roughly as good a pitcher as Jair Jurrjens was for the Braves last year; I don’t think he’ll do quite that well, but he ought to be better than an average National League pitcher.

And here, by the way, is 川上’s Player Page on http://www.japanesebaseball.com.

dogsbrekky

February 27th, 2009
1:40 pm

Someone say Stevie Ray – just love that guy, my older brother introduced me to his early stuff when I was still a wee pup, awesome musician……

Kawakami-san is hot…..

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