Ishii won 36 games for the Dodgers during the past three seasons, but in the process, he drove manager Jim Tracy nuts by piling up walks. The Japanese lefthander has averaged a major league-worst 5.8 walks per nine innings since signing with the Dodgers in 2002.
“It doesn’t really bother me, the number of walks,” Ishii (above) said through an interpreter. “I may walk a lot of guys, but I provide a lot of wins as well. I want for everyone not to get too nervous about the walks.”
Solving such problems is Rick Peterson’s job, and he coolly handled questions about Ishii’s wildness. Dealing with that type of question is something he has experience at, considering he faced the same scrutiny when he pushed the Mets to acquire Victor Zambrano for top prospect Scott Kazmir last July.
“I think the main issue is keeping run production to a minimum,” said Peterson, who said he could fix Zambrano in “10 minutes” before the Mets traded for him. “You don’t get many points for touching first base. I see nothing but good things in the forecast.”
Peterson is a glass-half-full kind of guy, but manager Willie Randolph won’t have such a rosy outlook if Ishii keeps walking batters, an irritating habit that led to his dismissal from the Dodgers. On the positive side, Ishii has shown the ability to handle pressure, which would explain his knack for escaping tight jams, not unlike Al Leiter’s flair for the dramatic last season.
Leiter could be frustrating with his high pitch counts and walk totals, and it will be up to Peterson to prevent Ishii from doing the same. His Dodgers counterpart, Jim Colborn, eventually had to wave the white flag, and he expressed sympathy for the Mets on Sunday, a few hours before the trade became official.
“I think Tracy and I have leaned on the side of patience and trust,” Colborn said, “but it hasn’t been easy.”
While Ishii is capable of supplying the quantity of innings to replace the injured Steve Trachsel, the quality of those innings remains to be seen. The Mets are just glad to have him, and they’ll worry about the walks when they happen.
“Any time you can get a pitcher of Kaz’s status, that’s incredible,” Peterson said. “The day after Trachsel had surgery, we had Kaz in the fold. The pitchers we have in camp now is a huge improvement over what we had last year.”