If you’re a hitter about to face Daisuke Matsuzaka, you have to wonder what pitch is coming. He has at least 6 pitches that we know, only because Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche asked Jason Varitek and he said he needs to use two hands when he calls a pitch for Dice-K.
Dice-K left many impressions with the hitters he faced during spring training. This is what some of the hitters he faced during spring training had to say:
“I saw the gyroball. It’s like a split-finger, downward angle, maybe runs in a little bit,” said Jason Stokes, who took the pitch for a 3-2 count before striking out on a slider.
“I’m glad he’s in the American League,” said Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez. I told him, ‘Come on, man? You come here from Japan and you’re stealing my hits. He’s good. His slider is good.”
“I thought his fastball was sneaky quick,” Dan Uggla said. “This [was] his first time out. I imagine he is only going to get better.”
“His slider is nasty,” said Miguel Olivo, who claimed it broke in two directions — down and over. “With men on, he works faster.”
“He’s got good stuff,” O’s second baseman Brian Roberts told The Baltimore Sun. “Shoot, you don’t give guys $50 million for nothing. He threw everything for strikes at different times in the count. He mixed it up. He’s here for a reason.”
“I don’t know what I hit,” shortstop Miguel Tejada told the Sun. “I just know that ball moves. I don’t know if it’s the gyroball or a slider he threw me. He’s pretty good.”
“I put a pretty good swing on it and made contact,” Jason Dubois told the Sun. “That’s all I was trying to do. He’s got a pretty good slider. He’s a pretty tough pitcher. We just got to him in that one inning.”
“It was the last thing on my mind,” Jon Knott said in the Sun. “I [had] been pressing a little bit the last couple days. I was just trying to get a knock.”
“He’s not the least bit shy about throwing any pitch in any given count, which suggests how much confidence that he has in throwing all of his pitches for strikes,” said Pirates manager Jim Tracy. “If you have the capability to do that, you’re going to keep hitters off balance for a very long time.”
“I was impressed,” said Adam LaRoche, the only Pirate to record a hit off Matsuzaka. “He had pretty good command with all his pitches. Obviously, he had a very good changeup, a slider. He must have a dozen pitches. I was asking [Sox catcher Jason] Varitek how many, and he said, ‘I don’t know, but I have to use both hands to give signs.'”
“He’s worth every penny,” Pirates leadoff hitter Chris Duffy told the Boston Herald. “He throws every pitch imaginable and throws them all for strikes. With most pitchers, when you get in a hole against them, you at least have an idea what pitch they are going to throw to try to finish you off. With this guy, there is no sense sitting on a particular pitch because he throws everything.”
“We didn’t get any hits, so obviously he did something,” Reds right fielder Ken Griffey said. “It’s a matter of seeing him a couple of times and reacting. The first time that you see anybody, he has the advantage over you. But he’s a guy who thinks his way through the order and knows what he wants to do.”
I don’t think he had his best stuff today,” said left fielder Adam Dunn, before catching himself. “What am I saying? I’ve never seen the guy before in my life. But from what I saw today, it was as advertised. He didn’t have very good location today. It probably made it a little easier on us. But he still got away with no runs and no hits. He did what he had to do.”
“Daisuke was funky, for one thing,” manager Jerry Narron said. “He throws a lot of different speeds. He throws a lot of different pitches at different speeds. He’s got pretty good command.”
Matsuzaka will be making his MLB debut on Thursday and the Royals are another team that hasn’t seen Dice-K pitch other than on video.
“I don’t know much about him,” said Royals manager Buddy Bell. “I’ve seen him on video. I’ve seen that he has great stuff with great command. We’re hoping he doesn’t have that great stuff and great command. If he does, it is going to be tough, as it is with every pitcher.”
Hopefully after his self proclaimed struggles towards the end of spring training, Matsuzaka has found what was wrong and made the adjustments. Just as long as his first pitch isn’t a home run given up like fellow countryman Hideki Okajima’s was, I think things will go just fine.