Junichi Tazawa: Cool under fire
|08.12.09 at 1:41 am ET|
If Junichi Tazawa proved anything on Tuesday night, the 22-year-old right-hander show he can certainly focus when the world around him is falling apart. And he showed why the Red Sox believed he could handle the pressure of starting at Fenway Park.
Tazawa made his first major league start just four days after allowing a two-run, game-winning homer to Alex Rodriguez in the 15th inning early Saturday morning.
“As far as using the experience against the Yankees, I had experienced what it was like to get hit and what it was like to lose,” Tazawa said after pitching five innings and earning his first big league win in Boston’s 7-5 triumph over Detroit. “I wasn’t looking for that. I wanted to move past that.” And move past it he did.
On Tuesday, filling in for the ineffective John Smoltz, Tazawa had to deal with chaos from the get-go.
An almost certain double play ball was botched by Nick Green when Green threw wildly to second base. Instead of getting out of the first without a run, Tazawa labored through 35 pitches and allowed three runs in the first.
Then in the second, Kevin Youkilis gets ejected for charging the mound and starting a bench-clearing brawl after getting hit by a pitch. Later in that same half-inning, his manager Terry Francona gets tossed for arguing a call when J.D. Drew was called out trying to steal second.
Tazawa waited nearly 45 minutes between throwing pitches in the top of the second and the top of the third.
He allowed a one-out triple to Magglio Ordonez, when Drew misplayed the ball. But still unfazed, Tazawa struck out Alex Avila and Brandon Inge looking to get out of trouble.
Beginning with the strike out of Avila in the third and concluding with a whiff of Clete Thomas opening the fifth, Tazawa fanned five of six batters in the Detroit lineup. Not bad for a pitcher who was hanging by a thread in the first.
And Farrell had little concern about Tazawa’s ability to handle the chaos all around him in his first major
“It starts first and foremost with his emotional control and his tremendous mound presence and no fear,” Farrell added. “He showed us that every time he went to the mound in spring training and again tonight. A pitcher with that type of mentality and makeup, they can advance quick because of their own self-awareness, one, and their game awareness, two.”
Tazawa threw 98 pitches on the night, but just 63 over his final four innings. He allowed just four hits, three runs – one earned – over five innings. He also hit a batter, walked two and struck out six. His pitching line did not include the extraordinary poise needed to handle everything around him.
“In this setting, a year ago he was pitching in the Industrial League,” Farrell said of Tazawa’s experience last season pitching in Japan. “To walk into Fenway Park and do this tonight is really remarkable when you take a step back from the five innings he pitched tonight, to realize how far he’s come in a very short period of time.”
Tazawa certainly made his impression on Farrell and manager Terry Francona.
“Under the circumstances, I thought he was exceptional,” Francona said. “The first things we did a lot of things in our power to make it a tough inning and he kept his poise. He never wavered.”
Tazawa wasn’t worried about not wavering. He was just into the moment.
“I’ve always wanted to pitch on the mound at Fenway and to play at Fenway,” Tazawa said. “I was able to do both of these things tonight. Emotionally, I was still very nervous. I tried to control the ball too much. These are definitely things I can work on in the future.”
Tazawa certainly proved Tuesday that he has a very bright future. Now, if the Red Sox can just work on making things a little less crazy for the kid.
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