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Giants' Fujimura relishes time away from the farm

by Jim Allen (Jun 4, 2011)

For generations, the Yomiuri Giants have been a movable feast of big-name talent. This year's menu, however, has been closer to pot luck.

With a half-dozen veteran stalwarts missing games through injury and poor form, Giants manager Tatsunori Hara has done what he often does: Raid the farm club for talent and keep his club moving forward.

Although a few of those who have been called up will be going back down as veterans return to action, left-handed-hitting second baseman Daisuke Fujimura appears likely to stay.

After waiting three years to get to the Central League, Fujimura has hit the ground running.

He led the Eastern League farm team with 17 steals last season, and since his CL debut on May 10, he has six steals, tying him for the team lead.

The Giants' top pick in the 2007 high school draft, Fujimura hit .284 with few extra-base hits or walks in his first three minor league seasons.

"I didn't hit the ball very hard," he recently told The Daily Yomiuri. "In high school I was fast, and at the high school level, if you're fast you can get so many infield hits.

"It's not that easy to do that here, though. I trained hard over the winter, swinging and working on my strength, and I have been hitting the ball harder.

"When I needed to be noticed [in camp], I had a couple of big doubles."

At the top level, Fujimura's offense has been unremarkable, with 12 singles in his first 50 at-bats for a .240 average with three walks, about what one would expect based on his minor league numbers.

The 22-year-old's defense, however, has drawn solid reviews, something Fujimura is proud of, after himself overmatched in the field when he turned pro.

"At the beginning, my defense was pretty awful," he said. "The pros hit the ball so much harder [than I was used to].

"[To improve] I just practiced a lot. I just took grounders all day, one after another. I don't really know how many hours I would be at it, but I don't think anybody on the farm team took more ground balls than I did.

"Now I look back on it and think, 'Because of that, I'm able to field at this level.'"

His defense is what's going to keep him on the big club, although Hara feels Fujimura has it in him to raise his batting another level.

"He needs to internalize a few things so he can adjust," the skipper said after throwing batting practice to his younger players on Thursday at Giants Stadium in Kawasaki.

"He worked on hitting the top of the ball, leveling out his swing. Then if he fails to drive it, he'll hit the ball on the ground instead of hitting weak flies."

Hara's teaching technique? Having Fujimura swing over the ball to prevent him from uppercuts.

"I was just reinforcing something he already understands," Hara said.

"The question for every player is whether he can put what he knows into practice in a game situation, when it is so easy to dwell on negative things."

Fujimura will be keen to learn if it means he can stay with the big club.

"I've never had this much fun," he said. "Every day on the first team is a blast."

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Veterans ready to return

A trio of Giants veterans may be ready to return to CL action as soon as next week, Hara said.

Outfielders Yoshinobu Takahashi and Yoshiyuki Kamei and infielder Michihiro Ogasawara have been working out on the farm team.

Takahashi broke a rib on April 26 and two-time MVP Ogasawara injured a calf muscle on May 13. The following day, Kamei broke a finger in pregame practice.


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