PORT ST. LUCIE — Kodai Senga still isn’t sure what to make of the Major Leagues, but he’s ready to find out.
The Mets’ right-hander made one final start Monday in an intrasquad game pitching against some of the organization’s top prospects. His first start of the spring also came against Mets hitters. The club has taken a cautious approach this spring to allow him to adjust to the new ball, the new mound and a new country, but Senga is ready to leave the confines of Port St. Lucie and face some of baseball’s best hitters.
“I didn’t face a lot of famous hitters today, but hopefully soon I’ll find out and we’ll see how amped up I get,” he said through a translator. “I’m excited.”
Senga threw 72 pitches, 12-15 of which were splitters. He had previously been told to lay off of those to make sure the middle finger tendinitis didn’t return, but all went well and his finger feels fine. He’s cleared to throw 90 pitches in his first outing against the Miami Marlins.
“The last outing before the real deal,” Senga said. “I thought I had pretty good control on my pitches and it went pretty well.”
Senga finished the Grapefruit League season with a 4.00 ERA in nine innings with 10 strikeouts. His fastball sat consistently in the mid-to-high-90s, which is consistent with where it was in Japan. There were some control issues in earlier outings, as is evidenced by the five walks, but those are to be expected when adjusting to a different strike zone. But overall, it was clear that his stuff plays. The splitter proved to be a deadly pitch that flummoxed hitters and everyone is eager to see him pitch to a Major League lineup.
The transition to North American baseball has been somewhat smooth other than a few minor hiccups along the way. The slope of the mound and the ball itself is different. He’s ready to play in a place that isn’t quite as hot as Port St. Lucie and he’s ready to get acclimated to New York. He had a chance to talk with Koji Uehara recently and the nine-year MLB veteran gave him some reassuring advice.
Senga has become a well-liked member of the team, despite the language barrier. It’s tough to be able to project the impact of players from the Nippon Professional League, but the only thing left to do now is pitch in his first Major League game.
“There will be some twists and turns along the way,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s handled it well at every turn. He’s got a good foothold and a good basis to start the season. He’s ready for the next step.
“There isn’t another level.”