This article on then-MLB rookie Shigetoshi Hasegawa appeared in The Rafu Shimpo, Los Angeles’ Japanese-English newspaper, on April 1, 1997.
Table All Set for New Angel Hasegawa
By Ed M. Odeven
TEMPE, Ariz. ー Shigetoshi Hasegawa was enjoying a successful baseball career with the Orix BlueWave of the Japanese Pacific League. He posted a 57-45 record with Orix since he joined the ballclub in 1991. He experienced the ultimate thrill for a Japanese ballplayer ー winning the 1996 Japan Series.
But the 28-year-old right-hander yearned for a greater challenge. He wanted to pitch in the major leagues. His dream became a reality when he signed with the Anaheim Angels on Jan. 9 as a free agent.
Hasegawa said he wanted to come to America because “the American level is higher than Japan.”
The hard-working native of Kobe, Japan, wanted to get the opportunity to pitch against the Roger Clemenses, Randy Johnsons and John Smolzes.
“I want to try, that’s all,” he said.
Who can blame him?
Players and coaches alike feel he has the right attitude and physical talents that are vital to thrive in the majors.
“He’s a very good pitcher,” Angels second baseman Fausto Cruz said. “I like the way he pitches. He has a good slider and a good change-up.”
Anaheim bullpen coach Joe Coleman also likes what he has seen of Hasegawa so far.
“He’s got very good command of all his pitches,” Coleman said. “He’s very sound fundamentally. He knows how to pitch. He uses both sides of the plate. He knows what he has to do to be successful. He’s been successful in Japan and now it’s just being able to make adjustments over here and pitch to American hitters.”
Now Hasegawa wants to prove he has what it takes to be a successful pitcher in the majors.
He said his No. 1 priority in spring training was just control and “not trying to throw hard.”
He has succeeded.
Hasegawa has appeared in five games this spring for the Angels. He has worked 18 innings, allowed 26 hits, 13 earned runs and allowed nine walks while striking out 13. Despite an 0-3 record with a 5.00 ERA, Hasegawa has been slated to start the season as the Angels’ No. 4 starter.
After southpaw Jim Abbott was released and lefty Chuck Finley’s eye injury will sideline him until mid-April, it appears that Hasegawa will be an integral part of the Anaheim pitching staff.
“Well, I think he’s going to be a great help, especially with the injuries that we’ve had,” Angels catcher Todd Greene said.
Hasegawa anxiously awaits the start of the regular season. The Angels’ season-opening series will pit them against the Boston Red Sox on April 2-3.
“It has been a lifelong dream of mine to pitch in the major leagues,” Hasegawa said. “I am looking forward to this opportunity. I would like to be a starting pitcher, but if that does not work out, I will do whatever it takes to be a contributor to this team.”
Hasegawa should contribute to the team by just going out there and doing his job ー using his extensive repertoire of pitches.
“He’s got good breaking stuff,” Greene said. “He locates well and he can go to any of those things. That’s a luxury to have a pitcher who can throw four pitches in any situation.”
Hasegawa admits he’s not a blazing fireballer like his teammate Troy Percival or like the legendary Nolan Ryan. But he’s confident his pitching skills will help pay the bills.
“My best pitch is my sinker,” he said. “(My second) best pitch is my fastball. I just want to play the whole season in the major leagues.”
Greg Maddux is Hasegawa’s favorite pitcher. The four-time Cy Young Award winner is someone Hasegawa likes to study and learn a thing or two from.
“I like his style,” he said. “Because he pitches the sinker ball and the slider in nice locations.”
Can Throw Breaking Ball
Coleman said Japanese pitchers tend to avoid throwing curveballs.
“They try to keep everything as straight as they possibly can because they are so control-oriented,” Coleman said. “Whereas in America you have pitchers that have a little more movement (on their pitches).”
Although Hasegawa relies on strong control of the “straight” pitches (fastball and change-up), he also throws a solid breaking ball and sinker.
Hasegawa’s first spring training in America was not as hard as some people may imagine. The Japanese spring training lasts seven hours per day. In the majors, it’s “only four or five hours a day,” he said.
Green likes what he has seen of Hasegawa. He feels Anaheim’s first pitcher from the Land of the Rising Sun has a bright future ahead of him.
“I don’t see why not,” Greene said. “As long as he keeps hitting the spots and getting guys out, he can stay in the big leagues forever.”