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February 16, 2009

More about Koji

Orioles pitching coach Rick Kranitz told the large media contingent from Japan that Koji Uehara's first bullpen session was one of the best he's ever seen from a pitcher throwing for the first time in the spring. There might have been a bit of hyperbole there, but Kranitz was impressed with Koji's command and pleasantly surprised that he displayed a cut fastball.

"That'll be a big asset for him in this league,'' Kranitz said.

ueharakapustin.bmpWhen Kranitz was through, he saw Uehara approaching the media throng and called him out through his interpreter.

"Tell him, I just did my interview in Japanese so he has to do his in English,'' Kranitz said.

"No problem,'' replied Uehara, in English.

The guy has a great sense of humor that comes across even with the language barrier. That much was apparent as far back as his introductory news conference, but he throws in a quip in almost every interview.

He said, in Japanese, that he was satisfied with his throwing session, though he struggled a bit to control his breaking pitches. When he was asked if the difference between the American baseball and Japanese baseball might affect the breaking ball more, he nodded and said the major league ball is a little more slippery than the ball used in Japan. But he also said he doesn't expect it to be a problem very long.

"It's not the first time I've used that ball,'' Uehara said. "I used it in the WBC and the Olympics. It's not that hard to adjust."

Injury update: Pitcher Wilfrido Perez was kept out of today's workout after being removed from the field because of dehydration yesterday.

Sun photo by Doug Kapustin

Posted by Peter Schmuck at 12:03 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Just baseball


I read that the O's are going to find out whether Wigginton or Freel can backup SS this year, opening up another bench spot that could be used for a pitcher. Would the O's consider using former SS Mora as a backup, or would that mess with his defensive ability at third?

Pete's reply: I would think that ship has sailed.

Okay, I'm a fan, so naturally at this time of year, reading stories like this one (FINALLY we have a presence in Japan!) I'm feeling pretty good about the team...while realistically they have no chance, it's for that very reason I think the Orioles will have a good season, perhaps even a .500 season. As in 1989 when the team was coming off its first 100+ loss season, no one "in the know" expects the Orioles to do diddly. As much as a role that talent/ability plays in the game, I believe, as a competitive athlete myself (I've been a ranked fencer for over 20 years) that sports is even more mental than physical. There is virtually no pressure on anyone this year. Just go out and play and have fun. And when athletes can relax, being less concerned about winning or NOT losing, that's when they truly excel. So I think we might surprise a few folks this season. Say what you will about the Orioles, they will be interesting and fun to watch, and what more can you really ask for?


Ask Koji about the "wa" (harmony) and does he think that it's important to be successful in the US?

Yes Max. This will be a fun year, at least until mid August or so when the Ravens are tuned up. A real ss adds 5 wins. catcher 3 wins. additional speed 2 wins. 77 wins would be a major step forward. We are literally a few pitchers away. The transition has begun in earnest even if its not reflected in our AL East schedule.

It seems to me Koji could develope a huge fan following if he's as pleasant as you say. I think we all are looking for someone to cheer on.

FINALLY baseball, It's like I can breathe again. So who do you see in the starting rotation Pete?

Pete's reply: I put that up yesterday and got quite a few arguments -- Guthrie, Uehara, Hill, Pauley, Hendrickson.

"Wa!" yes. And read "You Gotta Have Wa," a great book about Americans trying to keep careers alive by playing in Japan. History teacher friend of mine actually uses that book when she teaches a unit on Japan for HS students.

Go Koji!

I know Koji was projected as a reliever for pretty much every team but us, and he's getting older and seems to be on the decline, but I'm making a bold prediction here and now:

202.1 IP, 12-9, 3.94 ERA, 155 K, 1.32 WHIP

It is kind of sad to see how predictable this season will be, and virtually a repeat of the last couple.

It will go something like this.

The Orioles have a decent start with fresh arms and an offense that will do well all year. They have that going for them.

By mid-year the cracks will show up. Starters blowing up and going barely five innings, leaving (our relatively strong) relief out to dry. Injuries to the starting rotation will only make that worse, despite the abundance of young arms in the system. And by August we will lose 15 games straight.

Maybe not as bad as last year, but on any other team Uehara is at best a 4th or 5th starter. He'll probably end up with a respectable ERA in the high 4s. He's essentially our second starter.

I'm all for Andy's build it from the bottom up strategy. and I'm patient enough to let it work itself out. The offense is there, and has long term potential on top of that. But the management better hope that some of these pitching prospects pan out.

For everybody's sake...
(I don't consider myself a terrible pessimist, but hold back on the spring training optimism and just let some reality seep in)

Sorry Pete,if Hendrickson makes the starting staff we are in deep dodo,the only time he ever pitched well against is us.He'll probably have an awesome spring in the intrasquad games.

They didn't sign Hendrickson to pitch out of the bullpen,although that could happen down the road.The real slot that's up for grabs is the Pauley one..The whole process is organized chaos and a lot of decisions will be made on hunches,gut feelings,etc.If Albers is healthy and that's a big if,I'd rather have him in middle relief holding down the fort.Most of the bullpen is back end types.We need a couple of long and middle relief guys.I don't see how Baez fits into this team at all other than mop up.

I think you could well see a reverse of recent seasons. The season's opening rotation figures to be bad, and the team will fall to the bottom of the league like a rock.It could well be 15 or so games under .500 at the Break.

But you'll see Weiters come up in May. And come August you mite see one or two of the heralded young pitchers come up from the minors and make an impact. The Orioles could well finish the year on the upswing.The could be a .500 team after the Break and finish w/73 or 74 wins.

For all the people that are saying the O's pitching will collapse, the difference this year is we have a little more in the tank for 2009. If there is an injury you have more depth regardless of starters or bullpen guys..Not too many teams have 5 guys that make 32 starts in a year. Yes I wish they could have got a few front line starters like Lowe or Burnett, but at least they have some interesting choices this year. With 37 pitchers out there it is pretty obvious there is going to be a change soon. I also believe that Hendrickson will be in the bullpen and Waters may be a better fit for a starter. Guys like Koji,Hill, Penn Pauley and others are more suited for starting, plus the Orioles seem to be serious at ooking at Baez as a 5th starter. The bullpen is more set than the starting rotation. Because unlike last year, the ones that do come up when there is an injury or back to back to back bad starts the fans will see someone with quality come up and fell that spot. It is a good plan, for the future, and really takes some pressure off some of the young arms. The only thing on my mind is I wish the Orioles would lock up Roberts for the next four years, so they can move on from that.

Pete: Did the Orioles know that Koji only throws 84-88 MPH when they got him? He used to throw 91, has he lost that much? Not a big deal 91 is not overpowering anyway, it is the change of speed and breaking stuff. Instead of working them at shortstop maybe they should be working on holding on runners, which was a huge issue last year. Did they do any of that yet, or are they waiting for everyone else to show? Also with 37 pitchers in camp, they know who the main 15 guys are in competition for spots, are they separating them yet? They do need a back up shortstop maybe Hendrickson will get a look while the pitchers field ground balls!

Pete's reply: Yes, I think they were pretty well aware of his capabilities.

Hyperbole? Why? Why don't we just take statements at face value unless there is reason to doubt them? Have you been around the other spring training starts Kranitz has seen? Love your stuff.

Pete's reply: If I took everything at face value, I could just stay home and watch the O's satellite feed.

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About Peter Schmuck
Peter Schmuck wants you to know that, contrary to popular belief, he is more than just a bon vivant, raconteur and collector of blousy flowered shirts. He is a semi-respected journalist who has covered virtually every sport -- except luge, of course – and tackled issues that transcend the mere games people play. If that isn’t enough to qualify him to provide witty, wide-ranging commentary on the sports world ... and the rest of the world, for that matter ... he is an avid reader of history, biography and the classics, as well as a charming blowhard who pops off on both sports and politics on WBAL Radio. That means you can expect a little of everything in The Schmuck Stops Here, but the major focus will be keeping you up to the minute on Baltimore’s major sports teams and themes, whether it’s throwing up the Orioles lineup the minute it’s announced or updating you on the latest sprained ankle in Owings Mills. Oh, and by the way, that’s Mr. Schmuck to you.

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