PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Hisanori Takahashi and Ryota Igarashi have plenty in common as two Japanese pitchers trying to break into the majors. But it was their differences that were on display Wednesday as each threw their first session of live batting practice on adjacent fields at the Mets' spring-training complex.
The lefthanded Takahashi used his full assortment of five pitches - "Ten if you count both side of the plate," catcher Chris Coste said - but none showed much velocity. Takahashi keeps hitters off-balance with a fastball, curve, slider, cutter and changeup that is more like a shuuto, the Japanese version of a screwball.
"It's fun to catch a guy like that because he has such control on every pitch," Coste said. "I know when I put the glove up, it's going to be in that area. He can throw anything at any time."
While Takahashi is competing for the last rotation spot, and perhaps a long relief or lefthanded specialist role, Igarashi is vying for the setup job on the strength of a low-90s fastball, solid splitter and erratic curveball. Igarashi was effective with his splitter Wednesday, but the curve - he is trying out a new grip - got away from him on occasion.
"He has a heavy fastball and it explodes out of his hand," catcher Josh Thole said.
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With Kelvim Escobar slowed by shoulder problems, Igarashi seems to have the inside track to set up Francisco Rodriguez. For Takahashi, finding a niche may be more difficult.
"We will try to get him every opportunity to show us if he can be that situational lefty or he can be [long relief]," manager Jerry Manuel said. "If he throws strikes, he might be a guy that we can bring as a second lefty."
Sean the submariner
Sean Green unveiled his new, exaggerated sidearm look to hitters and seemed pleased by the result. Green, who started dropping down last September, has taken it to the extreme this year, though not as low as Chad Bradford's knuckle-scraping delivery.
"When I get tangled up in my shoelaces," he said, "I know it's time to stop."
Green likes the new delivery because it helps him be more consistent from pitch to pitch, which is the key for his slider and sinking fastball. Based on the reaction of the hitters, it's unusual enough to keep righthanders on their heels.