Yusei Kikuchi throws 40-pitch bullpen for Blue Jays
DUNEDIN, Fla, (AP) — Yusei Kikuchi threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, one day after the left-hander joined what projects as formidable Toronto Blue Jays rotation that includes Hyun Jin Ryu and Alek Manoah.
Kikuchi’s $36 million, three-year deal was finalized Monday.
“I was one of the guys that went like, ‘Yes!’ when he got him,” Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said as he pumped his fist. “I know what he wants, he wants to win.”
Kikuchi played catch at the Blue Jays’ complex Monday despite arriving in Florida around 4 a.m.
“That says a lot about him,” Montoyo said
Kikuchi spoke highly about a video the Blue Jays sent him that included comments from general manager Ross Atkins and his new teammates.
“I definitely felt like this team, this clubhouse is so bright,” he said through a translator. “I’m very excited to be here.”
Kikuchi joined the Seattle Mariners for 2019 season after pitching for parts of eight seasons with the Seibu Lions of Japan’s Pacific League.
After going 6-4 with a 3.48 ERA during the first half of the season and being selected to his first AL All-Star team last year, Kikuchi finished 7-9 with a 4.41 ERA and a career-high 163 strikeouts over 157 innings.
“He’s knows he’s a major league-caliber pitcher, and feels is best days are ahead of him,” Toronto pitching coach Pete Walker said. “I think for him it’s just a matter of getting in a rhythm, getting into the flow with our philosophies here and get in good working relationship with our catchers, and I think the rest of it will fall into place.”
Kikuchi is to throw batting practice for the first time with the Blue Jays Thursday after three sessions while working out in Arizona. He addressed his mechanics during the offseason.
“Yes, I have a good idea on why things didn’t go the way I wanted in the second half,” Kikuchi said. “I’d say the main point of focus were minor adjustments in my mechanics, and also being more aggressive out on the mound.”
Toronto went 91-71 and just missed making the playoffs last year after playing home games in three different cities due to Canadian COVID-19 travel restrictions. The Blue Jays have emphasized improving their rotation, agreeing to a $131 million, seven-year contract with José Berríos and adding free agent Kevin Gausman for a $110 million, five-year deal.
“It’s a great feeling,” Walker said. “We have good depth as well. We’re in a good position. I think the expectations are high but we still know we need to show up everyday. There’s certainly a positive vibe and a lot of confidence here, which is incredible. It’s awesome to be part of.”
The Blue Jays lost a pair of starters, Robbie Ray, who’ signed with Seattle, and Steven Matz, who joined the St. Louis Cardinals.
Notes: Atkins said the Blue Jays likely will added a position player to their roster. ... Toronto agreed to a one-year contract with left-hander Andrew Vasquez.
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