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John E. Gibson

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Whitesell provides big boost for Swallows

by John E. Gibson (Aug 11, 2010)

Josh Whitesell set high expectations for himself with a gaudy Japan debut in which he homered to help the Tokyo Yakult Swallows beat the Hanshin Tigers on June 26.

And since that game, he has been making the adjustment to the game here look simple, hitting .326 with eight homers, nine doubles and 29 RBIs in 28 games.

The Swallows are playing .700 ball since he joined the squad, and that includes a five-game winning streak in Whitesell's first week.

The Swallows have won their last six heading into a three-game home set against the Central League's front-running Yomiuri Giants that started Tuesday night, and Whitesell is a big reason why.

He said the game here is obviously different, but his assimilation doesn't involve anything drastic.

"It's just doing what you know how to do," Whitesell said at Jingu Stadium.

"I've been swinging a bat since I was 5 years old, so it's the same game--you know the nuances are different--but just go out and take good at-bats and when you get good pitches to hit, don't miss," said the 28-year-old infielder.

Teammate Jamie D'Antona, in his second season with the Swallows, said it's Whitesell's swing and patience at the plate that have helped him settle in quickly.

"So far, he's doing really well for us. He's pretty selective, considering his swing path is so hard--and that's good out here because you need to control the strike zone.

"There are a lot of offspeed pitches thrown--they try to make you reach for stuff and he's not really giving in to that. He's taking his walks and not trying to do too much with anything he's given. And whenever he gets a pitch [to hit], he hasn't missed it."

It doesn't hurt that Whitesell, who joined Yakult from the Washington Nationals' Triple-A affiliate, is with a couple of familiar faces in D'Antona and Tony Barnette.

"Between Tony and myself--we played together back home--so at least he knew a couple of the guys coming in," D'Antona said. "And if you start off pretty well and you don't struggle, everything's a bit easier."

Whitesell, who also has fourth-year outfielder Aaron Guiel to teach him the ropes, said the biggest adjustment has been dealing with the boys in blue behind the plate.

"A big part of it is the strike zone--it's definitely a different strike zone here than you have at home," said Whitesell, who is doing all this on the fly, without a spring training in Japan.

"You just kind of roll with the punches. I'm pretty easygoing, so I come out and do what I can do and have as quick a learning curve as possible," he said.

Whitesell's production has been a boost for a team that struggled during the first two-plus months, but finished the weekend 5-1/2 games out of third place and the CL's final playoff spot.

"When all those things are clicking, that's when the wins start piling up. Now we've got some games against the Giants and [second-place] Tigers coming up and those are teams above us in the division, so those are the tough games we need to win.

"Hopefully we can go out and continue the success we've had the last few weeks."


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