If yesterday’s first glance at new arrival Kaz Ishii is any indication of performance in the regular season, he’s a more than servicable 5th starter (and a great pickup considering how little he cost). But he’s also likely to burn through the bullpen, as Tim Marchand has suggested. Newsday’s David Lennon reports on yesterday’s exhibition against Los Angeles.
There were times when Ishii’s act got a little tedious, with a few restless fans yelling out, “C’mon, Ishii. Throw strikes!” If, as the saying goes, the best pitch in baseball is strike one, then Ishii too often saves his best for last. Of the 23 batters he faced, Ishii started only six with strikes, and that is a dangerous habit.
In the sixth inning, Ishii fell behind 2-and-0 to Jason Repko, and the Dodgers’ leftfielder crushed the next fastball as if he knew it was coming, belting it for a solo homer. But Ishii seems content to live on the edge, and he dismisses any talk of his wildness being a major issue. Only 54 of his 98 pitches were strikes, but Ishii allowed just two walks.
“I’m not really concerned about first-pitch strikes,” Ishii said through an interpreter. “It’s not really important. The important part is how to get the guy out.”
And Ishii, regardless of his method, has the ability to do that. His fastball yesterday stayed in the range of 86 to 88 mph, pushing 90 on occasion. His curve and slider were effective, but his best pitch might have been the cut fastball, which he used to whiff J.D. Drew in the first inning.
“From facing him in the past, I don’t remember his cutter working as well as it did today,” Drew said. “Hopefully, I can figure it out by the time we face him again.”
Ishii credited Mike Piazza with calling for the cut fastball at the right time, surprising hitters who might have been looking for something else. The two briefly went over signals before yesterday’s game, but Ishii left the strategy in Piazza’s hands. “He’s a very smart catcher,” Ishii said.
Piazza also praised Ishii, but he did suggest there is some room for improvement. He noticed that Ishii was a little jumpy on the mound and tended to “explode” into his pitches rather than keep himself reined in, which hurt his mechanics.
“He should be OK,” Piazza said. “He’s got good, usable stuff. It’s just a matter of getting in a groove and expanding the zone when he needs to. He’s one of those guys who puts a few guys on base, but he’s able to strike a few guys out, too.”
Yesterday was only Ishii’s second Grapefruit League start, but in 122/3 innings, he has 12 strikeouts and has held opposing hitters to a .114 average (5-for-44), although he has walked six. Ishii will stay at the Mets’ spring-training complex for one more tune-up before making his first start, which will be a week from tomorrow in Atlanta.