Kodai Senga's friends in Japan can expect early morning wake-up call
MIAMI — When Kodai Senga takes the mound against the Marlins at 1:40 p.m. Sunday, his major-league debut after more than a decade as a pro in Japan, he fully expects his family and friends back home to be watching — even though it’ll be 2:40 a.m. there.
“If I’m good friends with them and if they are not going to be awake to watch me, I will make sure they’re awake,” he said through an interpreter.
“A lot of calls,” he said with a laugh.
Senga’s first game is a highly anticipated one. After establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in Nippon Professional Baseball, he decided to test himself by coming stateside over the offseason. A tour of major-league cities, plus interviews with a bunch of teams, ended with him signing with the Mets for five years and $75 million.
After a largely uneventful spring training aside from a brief pause to allow his sore right index finger to rest, Senga, 30, is ready for the real thing.
Senga said about 24 hours before first pitch he had experienced no emotions related to his imminent debut, though he was open to that changing. He hadn’t decided yet which glove he’d use, but he was considering a blue and orange model featuring a new logo designed by his equipment company, Zett. It features his name and uniform number (No. 34) combined as “S3NG4.”
What Buck Showalter said he most was curious to see: Senga “reacting to any adversity.”
“I want to see the hitters’ reaction to his pitches. I want to see what happens when he gets squared up,” Showalter said. “The first time he throws a pitch that he thinks is a really good pitch and gets squared up, how do you react?”
Starling Marte was out of the lineup Saturday as part of Showalter’s easing-in effort to sit several position players at some point in the opening days of the season.
Brandon Nimmo will do the same Sunday. Tim Locastro will be in the lineup, but Showalter hadn’t decided which of Locastro, Tommy Pham or Mark Canha would play center.
Down on the farm
Righthander Joel Diaz, 19, will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery to fix the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Regarded as one of the Mets’ better pitching prospects — and No. 12 in their system overall, in MLB Pipeline’s preseason rankings — Diaz struggled last year with Low-A St. Lucie, an aggressive promotion at age 18 in his first stateside season. In 2021, the Mets named him their Dominican academy pitcher of the year for his dominance in the Dominican Summer League.