Newest Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga will have his workload...

Newest Mets starting pitcher Kodai Senga will have his workload watched closely by manager Buck Showalter and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. Credit: Corey Sipkin

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.  — There are few mysteries involving the Mets at the start of this spring training, with a veteran roster and returning players at nearly every position, but the one riddle certain to get the most attention is Kodai Senga.

Senga was a star in Japan, possessing a triple-digit fastball and the “ghost fork” — labeled as such for how it vanishes in diving out of the strike zone But there is always an adjustment process in coming to pitch here, from getting used to larger, less-tacky baseballs to performing on unfamiliar mounds from their NPB counterparts, right down to a variance in dirt, according to Buck Showalter.

Senga, who signed a five-year, $75 million deal, also is coming from a league where pitchers start only once a week rather than every fifth day, so his spring schedule will have to be monitored more closely than the  others as well. The Mets have roughly six weeks to get him up to speed, and Showalter said Tuesday the process already has been underway with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner.

“I’ve had Japanese pitchers, and it’s different,” Showalter said. “The baseball’s different. The dirt’s different. Even the wind — a lot of their stadiums don’t have a wind issue at all. Their baseballs, not just the size but the grip.

“One thing about him is look how much he’s pitched, and the time off in between, but he also had more work days. He threw more. His work days are a lot longer than most people’s, under that plan where you get two or sometimes three work days in between starts. So we can really shorten up a lot of his workload by the workday he has in between. Those are little things we’re trying to adjust and get ahead of.”

Senga, 30, may be a rookie by MLB standards, but he’s an 11-year NPB veteran with 1,340 career innings, a 2.42 ERA and 1.096 WHIP. That’s an elite base to build on over here, even if it’s going to be a bit of process in the early going. Showalter recalled having Koji Uehara when he first came to the majors at age 34, and he later became one of the sport’s most dominant relievers, thanks to his forkball, or splitter.

“He spent a little time making some adjustments, but they all eventually figure it out,” Showalter said. “That’s the encouraging part of it.”


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