Kodai Senga admitted that his first bullpen session as a member of the New York Mets on Thursday was only “so-so.”
The 30-year-old right-hander who signed a five-year, $75 million deal this winter to join the Mets is continuing his adaptation to baseball in the United States after spending the last 11 years with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan.
So far, it’s not the larger ball or its different texture that’s providing the largest hurdle. It’s the steepness of the mound.
“That will be an adjustment I have to make in the coming weeks,” he said through a translator on Thursday. “Just a little bit of drifting and leaking of my front side… That’s something I’ll have to look into for my next bullpen session.”
Senga threw roughly 50 pitches during his first session on the American mound, which slopes downward at a rate of one inch per foot starting six inches from the pitching rubber. It’s reportedly the same dimensions as pitcher’s mounds in Japan, but the dirt in NPB is softer, allowing pitchers to dig in more to eliminate that slope.
Still, he maxed out at 96 mph on his fastball, which is a tick down from the triple-digits he possessed in Japan, but that’s an expected byproduct of pitching with a large baseball.
“I’m not the type to throw a lot of pitches… even within those 50 pitches, it’s not like I’m throwing super hard on all of them,” Senga said. “Probably only about half of them. Maintaining 50 quality pitches should be good…
“As of right now I don’t feel like the ball doesn’t have any effect on the so-so bullpen. It’s just the steepness of the mound… ball not bothering me at all.”
Senga is projected to be the Mets’ No. 3 starter this season behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, which will call for an increased workload compared to what he was used to in Japan. He’s only pitched more than 150 innings in a season twice in his career.
“Those two are legends in the baseball world,” Senga said of Verlander and Scherzer. “[Carlos Carrasco and Jose Quintana] are very distinguished, too…. they’ve had longer careers than I have. I just have to make sure I go into this season and not be the odd man out.”