On Sunday, Seibu prospect Yusei Kikuchi made his ichi-gun debut, an afternoon start against the Hanshin Tigers. The results weren't impressive: 2.1 IP, 53 pitches, 14 batters faced, 6 hits, 2 strikeouts, 1 walk, 4 runs, 4 earned. That line looks a little worse if we note that two of Kikuchi's seven outs were sacrifice bunts by Keiichi Hirano.
Stuff-wise, Kikuchi's day was a mixed bag. He didn't have the fastball velocity that he showed in his high school days, and while he had great movement on his slider, his command of it was spotty. He fell behind in the count to most of the batters he faced, and lacked the swing-and-miss stuff to get even. But on the positive side, he worked exclusively down in the zone, and induced a number of extraordinarily weak, squiber-ish ground balls. All of the six hits he surrendered were singles, and only one was a decisive line drive.
Kikuchi was clearly better against the weak part of Hanshin's order, so maybe he needs a little more time at ni-gun to work things out. The basics are there, and if Kikuchi can add a few more kmph to his fastball, a little more polish on his slider, and a changeup or a curveball to round things out, I think he'll be a quality professional pitcher.