BALTIMORE—When the Orioles acquired Shintaro Fujinami from the Oakland Athletics on July 19th, he had an 8.57 ERA. The Orioles hoped that with judicious use of the 29-year-old right-hander, his numbers would improve, and they have.
In 17 games with the Orioles, Fujinami has a 4.50 ERA, but his WHIP is far better, 1.000. Even though Fujinami has allowed nine walks in 18 innings, he’s also allowed only nine hits. He’s struck out 22.
In his last four appearances, Fujinami has been excellent, giving up just two hits in five scoreless innings and striking out seven.
On Monday night, Fujinami retired three Chicago batters on just seven pitches in the ninth.
“Throwing strikes, working ahead in the count, more aggressive with his fastball, 101, 102, more confidence the last couple of times out,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“Quick inning last night, that was awesome. Hopefully feeding him confidence, attack the strike zone and be aggressive with his fastball. His split’s really good. I think he struck the last batter out with a slider last night. He’s got great stuff, keep on pitching.”
Hyde doesn’t know Fujinami well enough to analyze him well.
“He’s had some good appearances. He’s had some shaky ones,” Hyde said. “When things are going well, he looks like he’s real confident on the mound and throwing strikes.”
Fujinami has grown comfortable with the Orioles. His grasp of English has improved, and though there are far fewer Japanese in Baltimore than in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s adjusted well.
“Obviously, there are less Asian people here in Baltimore, and Japanese restaurants,” he said through a translator.
“When we were in Oakland, we didn’t have many friends there, Japanese friends to hang out with. Not much of a difference, just less Asian people. Either way, we don’t have many friends here.”
Fujinami has an easy rapport with fellow relievers.
“A lot of bullpen guys talk to me and make me feel more comfortable,” he said. “They’re being good teammates, so I’m adjusting real well.”
Fujinami said that there are some things he had to get used to in the U.S.
“The biggest difference is the strike zone,” he said. “Both sides are tighter and the bottom is tighter here, but the top is taller in the Japanese strike zone.
“The Japanese hitters, they are good at contact, but over here until two strikes they swing hard, and then they make adjustments with two strikes. Over there, it’s contact, contact, contact all the time so that’s the difference.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB