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Nakamura adjusting to new role

by John E. Gibson (Apr 18, 2009)

As miserable debuts go, few can match that of Micheal Nakamura, whose first appearance with the Yomiuri Giants left him with Big Egg on his face.

The reliever entered the Giants' second game of the season on April 4 at Tokyo Dome with a 2-1 lead against the Hiroshima Carp and quickly got the first two outs.

Then a walk and a hit batter put the go-ahead run on base. After that, a misplaced 2-2 pitch to Carp cleanup man Kenta Kurihara got spanked into the left-field seats and the lead had vanished. Scott Seabol followed by popping a home run to left to make it 5-2 in an instant. The Giants scored a late run, but he took the loss.

The offseason trade that brought Nakamura, who closed out 102 games over four seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, to Yomiuri had the distinct scent of another Giant bust.

Nakamura, though, said it's all part of the adjustment period he is undergoing.

"When I was closing, if I had a three-run lead and I gave up two runs but we won that day, that's all I cared about," Nakamura told The Daily Yomiuri on Wednesday at Jingu Stadium.

"If we had a two-run lead and I gave up one run, I didn't care. If we had a one-run lead and I didn't give up any--that was what I had to do, just hold the game for that inning.

"And I feel the same way in the seventh and eighth innings, but it's different because it's earlier in the game."

In that case, a run here or there makes a difference, and shifting his mentality has been the biggest adjustment for Nakamura, a fifth-year righty who is now in the set-up role for stopper Marc Kroon.

He's also adjusting to the "Yomiuri" routine and said he is still in settle-in mode.

"My track record is--whenever I went from A ball to Double-A, or I went from one big league team to another big league team or from the big leagues to Japan--practice is practice, but it takes me two, three, four weeks and then I get rolling," he said.

"Erase my first game of the season and everything's been pretty good."

Nakamura said bouncing back the next day from a bad performance is part of a reliever's life. His faith also helps him keep a firm grip on his emotions.

"I'm a Christian so I just basically hand it over to God," he said. "I prepared and I trained hard in the offseason--I never skipped practice. I did what I needed to do to get ready for the season.

"Every player's going to have a rough patch, every player's going to have a great patch. It's not riding the highs or riding the lows, just staying on an even keel," said the Australian.

Nakamura wasn't exactly on an even keel when he found out about the four-player deal in which he and infielder Tomohiro Nioka were the principals.

"I was really shocked," Nakamura admitted. "My father reads the Japanese papers online, and said to me one day, 'Mike, are you getting traded?'

"I'm like, 'What?' And I heard there were trade rumors with the Hanshin Tigers, trade rumors with the Giants and I said, 'I don't know. So my agent called and he asked and they said 'yes.'"

Nakamura said a player couldn't ask to be sent to a better place, though.

"I've already told my friends this year and said, 'Look, I'm going to come home late this year, we're going to probably win the whole thing. I feel like this team is strong in starting, strong in batting, strong in relief; we've got some speed and we've got power.

"If guys stay consistent and stay healthy, I think we're going to go all the way."


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