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Weighty adjustments: Fighters' Scales puts instincts on hold

by John E. Gibson (Sep 15, 2011)

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters midseason acquisition Bobby Scales is battling his instincts as well as opponents.

But the 33-year-old, who left the Chicago Cubs organization to join Nippon Ham in late June, is dealing well with all the adjustments and helping the Fighters as they eye the postseason.

Scales, who splashed onto the scene by clubbing a pair of grand slams in July, said he is fighting his instinct to buck the system in Japan.

"It's a very conservative brand of baseball over here, and honestly, for me I'm an aggressive player, so that has been an adjustment," Scales told The Daily Yomiuri on Tuesday at Tokyo Dome.

"Taking extra bases--you don't see much of that. You don't see much risk-taking on a questionable ball between two outfielders. Guys just don't take the extra base--more often than not, they opt to stay at first," said Scales, who is hitting .281 with eight homers and 26 RBIs in 52 games

"That's not how I was raised in the game. I had to play the game a certain way in order to be successful. The good Lord blessed me with a certain amount of talent, but my biggest tools are my heart and my brain.

"And there are certain times when you can take acceptable risks. But here, it's seen differently."

The difference has Scales weighing options instead of reacting, but he lets instinct take over at times.

"I can't change who I am. There are going to be times when I take risks and they might see it as being the correct thing, but I've got to play the way I know how to play," said the second baseman, who played more than 1,000 games in the minor leagues.

The Fighters, in second place in the Pacific League, scrambled for a replacement when five-time Golden Glove-winning infielder Kensuke Tanaka went down on June 18 with a broken left ankle.

But that brings up another head-shaking issue for Scales, with the Fighters almost guaranteed a spot in the Climax Series. He tossed in his 2 cents about the unconventional playoff format.

"I think it's kind of ridiculous, to be completely honest with you," the switch-hitter said of the system, in which the first-place team is forced to wait for the first stage to be completed before playing all the final-stage games at home with a one-win advantage.

"To have as much time between the regular season and postseason as you do....It is what it is and I'm here, so I guess I'm in it. To win your league and then have almost a month off between winning your league and the first playoff game, I think is a little ridiculous.

"There's nothing you can do about stuff like that. They asked me to come over here and I accepted, so there's some stuff that you accept with that."

The Fighters are seven games back of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks and nine games ahead of the third-place Orix Buffaloes with a little more than 20 games to play. Barring a big surge at the finish, Nippon Ham will be the No. 2 team heading into the playoffs.

In the postseason, the Fighters could face the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles, who were only a game behind Orix through Tuesday, and that would mean contending with Sawamura Award candidate Masahiro Tanaka and Hisashi Iwakuma --a potentially lethal combination in a three-game series.

But Scales shrugged that concept off.

"That's playoff baseball, man. If you make the playoffs, you've got good pitching and you have good defense and apparently, you swung the bats some, too, to win some games," he said.

"So I don't care who's pitching. I don't buy into that. I have never been intimidated by who's standing out there on the mound. You've still got to throw it over the plate and I have confidence in myself that I'm going to hit it. That's how I'm wired."


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