New York Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga admitted that he was able to breathe “a sight of relief” in his final spring training outing this week ahead of the 2023 season.
The Japanese product’s splitter, also known as the ghost forkball, had been seldom used throughout the exhibition season as he battled tendinitis in his right index finger while getting used to a larger ball, steeper mound, and the pitch clock in the majors following 11 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball.
During Monday’s intrasquad spring-training finale, Senga threw five innings and struck out nine on 72 pitches while throwing his splitter roughly approximately 15 times. He finished the spring having allowed four runs on six hits with 10 strikeouts in nine innings of work.
“I threw a good amount [of splitters] and they felt good, so a sigh of relief,” Senga said through his interpreter. “The last outing before the real deal, I thought I had pretty good control on my pitches, and I thought it went pretty well.”
The right-hander’s splitter is deemed to be the most imposing piece of his pitching arsenal as his putaway pitch with a growing mystique that baffled many a hitter in Japan and made some pros in the majors look silly throughout spring.
Yet Senga, who said the decrease in splitters came “naturally,” opted to use his ramp-up time to work on a new cutter and slider.
The reintroduction of the ghost forkball on Monday came so on five days’ rest, which Buck Showalter admitted was “good to see.”
While Senga continues to adjust to the game in the United States, he’ll also be looked upon to increase his workload as the Mets’ No. 3 starter behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander after signing a five-year, $75 million deal with New York this winter. He threw over 148 innings just twice in 11 years in Japan. To compare, the Mets had four starters last year throw at least 145 innings.
To ensure he’s eased into those responsibilities, the Mets are expected to institute a six-man rotation occasionally throughout the season. Senga is also getting a pitch count of “about” 90 pitches in his major-league debut, which is slated to come on Sunday against the Marlins.