Junichi Tazawa appears to be adjusting nicely to American baseball, posting a 2.67 era with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings so far at double-A Portland. To get a little more insight into how Tazawa's performing, I contacted Portland Press Herald sports writer Kevin Thomas with a few questions.
Kevin covers baseball for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. He first reported on spring training games for the St. Petersburg Times in 1978. He wisely moved to Maine in 1994 and now writes about the Portland Sea Dogs and Boston Red Sox-when he's not coaching Little League baseball.
Kevin's blog can be found on mainetoday.com.
NPB Tracker: Tazawa has to adjust to taking a regular rotation turn and facing batters who are capable of hitting his best stuff. How is he acclimating himself so far?
Kevin Thomas: Very well. He makes very few mistakes with his pitches, meaning that he keeps the ball low. He is already one of the best pitchers in the Eastern League this year.
NPBT: Prior to joining the Red Sox organization, Tazawa always pitched from the stretch. Is he able to repeat his mechanics from the windup yet?
KT: He said the windup helped his fastball, but he initially had trouble staying consistent with his breaking balls. But he seems to have adjusted and his commanding his breaking balls just fine.
NPBT: What aspect of Tazawa's game have you been impressed with?
KT: The way he stays poised no matter the situation. In fact, he seems to get better with runners on base.
NPBT: Where does he need to improve?
KT: All pitchers at this level need to remain consistent. That said, he is mixing up his pitches very well, throwing the fastball for strikes, and setting up his slider, curves and split-finger.
NPBT: Where does Tazawa rank among the Sea Dogs prospects?
KT: The Red Sox have several good starting pitchers in the minors, including Clay Buchholz and Michael Bowden in Triple-A Pawtucket. I would rank Tazawa right behind them, and I expect he will join them this season in Pawtucket.
NPBT: Thanks Kevin!