Kawakami puts aside worries, makes spring debut

TAMPA – Kenshin Kawakami woke Friday to find a flurry of messages and texts on his phone, then turned on the television and saw what they were about.

A massive earthquake rocked the Braves pitcher’s Japanese homeland. Kawakami immediately wanted to make sure his parents and sister were safe before making his spring training debut Friday against the New York Yankees.

He saw that the earthquake was centered off the coast more than 500 miles from his hometown of Tokushima, so he figured they were probably OK, but wanted to be sure.

After many failed attempts to reach them by phone, he heard back from his older sister via e-mail, just as the Braves’ bus was pulling into the parking lot at George M. Steinbrenner Field. His family was safe.

That issue resolved, Kawakami proceeded to have a successful spring debut, giving up one walk and no hits during the fifth inning of the Braves’ 6-2 Grapefruit League win against the Yankees.

“My body felt really good today,” Kawakami said through his translator. “I want to keep with the pace and be ready to start the season.”

The Braves can only hope it helps reinvigorate trade interest in the 35-year-old right-hander, who went 1-10 with a 5.15 ERA in 2010 and has one year and $6.7 million left on his contract.

“I don’t have time to think about where I’m going,” he said. “For me it’s about myself right now, and the way I’m pitching, and to get ready for the season.”

His debut was delayed because he missed two weeks of camp with visa issues in Japan.

“For his first time out, I thought it was good,” Braves manger Fredi Gonzalez said. “He made an adjustment.”

Kawakami got behind 3-0 against the first batter, Justin Maxwell, and bounced the second pitch. He walked him on five pitches, but Maxwell was thrown out by catcher Brian McCann trying to steal second on the next pitch to Austin Krum.

“Giving up that first walk, I was kind of a little nervous,” Kawakami said. “But I was able to settle down. I really appreciate Mac throwing out the runner at second base.”

Krum grounded out, then Derek Jeter grounded to short on a 1-2 pitch to end the inning.

Kawakami insisted it wasn’t difficult to put the earthquake out of his mind and get ready to pitch, although he was worried about friends in Tokyo and about former Braves teammate Takashi Saito, whose family lives in the coastal region hit hardest by the quake.

“The main spot where the earthquake hit, it’s where Saito lives,” he said. “Luckily, I heard his family is fine so far.”

39 comments Add your comment

GTSteve

March 11th, 2011
5:28 pm

Enter your comments here

GTSteve

March 11th, 2011
5:29 pm

Well, thats the FIRST time I ever did that…good inning out of KK today..I hope he keeps it up

baller

March 11th, 2011
5:32 pm

So, even if Kawakami has a lights-out spring, the Braves won’t include him in the 5th starter competition?

Greg from Marietta

March 11th, 2011
5:39 pm

I truly hope that he really shines in Spring Training and some other team makes a really good offer for him, possibly on the west coast.

Willy

March 11th, 2011
6:10 pm

If Kawakami isn’t traded by the start of the year they should give him the 5th slot in the rotation. If he does well the Braves can get more for him. If not – well, they wouldn’t get much for him as a AAA starter either.

Mike in Canton

March 11th, 2011
6:11 pm

Good outing by Kawakami and the rest of the Braves pitchers today.

bruce

March 11th, 2011
6:25 pm

hoping KK can get on a roll… that would be best for everyone

Kenshin Kawakami

March 11th, 2011
6:34 pm

I did good right?

Josh

March 11th, 2011
6:37 pm

I tweeted DOB about Kenny and his family this morning. Glad to hear they’re all okay. Anyway, I don’t say this often, because I like Frank Wren, but he screwed up. The Braves haven’t given Kenny the respect he deserves. Anyone who even remotely follows NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) knows what Kenny is capable of. He won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young award and lead the Chunichi Dragons to a championship. Give him some run support and he’ll give you wins.

Josh

March 11th, 2011
6:42 pm

I tweeted DOB in regards to Kenny and his family this morning. Glad they’re all okay. Anyway, I like Wren, but he screwed up with how he’s handled the situation. The organization hasn’t treated Kenny with the respect he deserves. Anyone who remotely follows NOB (Nippon Professional Baseball) knows what he’s capable of. He won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young award and lead the Chunichi Dragons to a championship. Give him some run support and he’ll give you wins.

Lancer578823

March 11th, 2011
6:45 pm

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Since 1964, the year of the Surgeon General’s first report on the health risks of cigarette smoking, strong evidence of the association between smoking and cancer has accumulated. Countless studies have proved that smoking causes lung cancer, and we now know that it substantially increases a person’s risk of developing cancer of the larynx, pharynx, oral cavity, esophagus, bladder, kidney, and pancreas. Additional studies suggest a strong association between smoking and cancer of the cervix.

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gcs

March 11th, 2011
6:48 pm

I hope the Pirates were watching. You want him. Don’t you? Make an offer, Pittsburgh.

.

Chipper and Andruw are Hall of Famers

March 11th, 2011
6:50 pm

Will someone take him?

On a side note, will they cancel the Japan Leagues?

Chipper and Andruw are Hall of Famers

March 11th, 2011
6:50 pm

Will they play ball in Japan?

Chipper and Andruw are Hall of Famers

March 11th, 2011
6:51 pm

They playing Japan ball this year?

Farnsworthy

March 11th, 2011
6:53 pm

Maybe the Mets will pick up K.K.

reckingball

March 11th, 2011
7:00 pm

Maybe, the Braves can trade KK to Yankees for some more prospects, if the Yanks have any.

Chipper and Andruw are Hall of Famers

March 11th, 2011
7:12 pm

They playing in Japan this year?

jed

March 11th, 2011
7:26 pm

seriously, kk’s a good gamble for teams in need of a 4 or 5 starter. i think the braves bothced it with him last year, and i still dont understand it. but that’s old news, i suppose…

Buddman

March 11th, 2011
7:59 pm

Way to go KK. Thank Buddha your family is safe.

Lil Red

March 11th, 2011
9:18 pm

Why is an anti-smoking campaign in the middle of a baseball blog? Put it in the middle of American Idol as a warning for teenagers.

wdwj 68

March 11th, 2011
9:41 pm

Great job KK..He always has something good to say about others.You don’t find many people like that. I hope his family and Saito’s family is ok. What ever happen with KK he is a super person. I hope he gets it together.
Krum with NYY is a good player to watch.

Heisenberg

March 11th, 2011
10:21 pm

I have been critical of KKs performance on the mound. But I will never be critical of him as a person. He has been a class act and shown us all how to carry yourself with dignity in adverse situations.

benchwarmer

March 11th, 2011
10:40 pm

I have to admire KK. He is always a thoughtful teammate. He walks a guy and thanks Mac for throwing him out. I hope KK has a great year and helps the Braves to a championship.

Bigwheel

March 11th, 2011
10:46 pm

Thanks Lancer, ill be sure and forward that to my wife’s inbox.

phil jones

March 11th, 2011
11:05 pm

honestly, tell kwak to beat it.

Josh

March 11th, 2011
11:40 pm

I tweeted DOB this morning to inquire of Kenny and his folks in Japan. Glad to hear all is well.

That having been said, I must say that I’m disappointed in the way Wren has handled this whole situation with Kenshin. The organization has failed to give him the respect he deserves. Anybody who remotely follows NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) knows exactly what Kenny’s capable of.

He won the Eiji Sawamura award, which is the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young award. He was also named the MVP of his league that same year. He’s thrown a no-hitter and lead his team (Chunichi Dragon) to a championship.

This guy can pitch.

He’s been the most unlucky player I’ve ever seen. Plus, he receives virtually no run support.

I say he deserves a chance at that fifth start spot. He’s got the credentials, the experience and I know he’s got the will power.

Day Man

March 12th, 2011
12:14 am

Yankees need pitching right? …

Murphfan

March 12th, 2011
1:09 am

I know it’s not fair to him but every time I see him on the mound I get irritated. For some reason every time I turned a Braves game last year he was on the mound getting blown up again. I hope he turns it around though.

Mitchell

March 12th, 2011
2:44 am

You go KK!

You da man. Right everybody?

Mitchell

March 12th, 2011
2:48 am

By the way, he did not get “blown up” on the mound every time last year.

He may not have deserved to have a winning record but he’s not as bad as 1-10.

There are some bad pitchers in this league, mostly in Pittsburg, althought they handed it to us last September now that I recall…

If he can regain his mid-2009 season form, he could be a pretty good pitcher. For some other team that is.

Braves Paisan

March 12th, 2011
7:16 am

He might surprise this year. Maybe it is the cultural dislocation that has bothered him. Pitchers are delicate beasts.

Trojan

March 12th, 2011
8:11 am

There were many pitchers with worse era’s than KK, yet most bloggers think that he is the worst in major league history. I hope he does well.

DW

March 12th, 2011
9:15 am

Hang in there KK, wish you well no matter where you end up.

kawakazi

March 12th, 2011
9:20 am

hey good ol KK did pretty well. He shut down some good teams and went up against some good aces in 09. I hope he gots another shot. As others have said he is a class act and Frank Wren has been less a class act with him.

Smackerel

March 12th, 2011
9:38 am

Lancer578823 – Smoking is bad for you? Who knew?

heartofdarkness

March 12th, 2011
11:48 am

Enter your comments here

heartofdarkness

March 12th, 2011
12:01 pm

blog love for KK. He has been a fine example of the ennobling influence which sport may have on its participants. He was more than a match for any of the vicissitudes his career placed in his path.

BBUA

March 13th, 2011
10:29 am

Like most bloggers I agree KK was treated poorly by the braves last year. I’m not sure if it was Bobby or Wren but they have shot themselves in the foot by the way they have handled the situation. No team is going to give much of anything or pick up much of the salary because they know the braves want to get rid of KK. I believe he will pitch in the majors this year and prove the braves were wrong (again).

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