Red Sox manager Alex Cora wants Sawamura to elevate his fastball more often as a way to limit home runs, Ian Browne of MLB.com reports.
Sawamura has allowed four home runs over 14.1 innings (2.5 HR/9), and Cora feels that's because the pitcher keeps his fastball down in the zone. "Actually, we want him to elevate," said Cora. "[Friday], his velocity was up, it was 97-98 [mph]. But at this level, it seems like fastball down in the zone, that's where they're hunting and they put good swings on it. Besides that he's been OK." It used to be that pitching down in the zone was preferable as it would lead to more groundballs than a damaging hit, but those days appear to be over. "I'm not saying, just throw it up there all the time, you've got to get ahead, but you can expand up," Cora added. If Sawamura can make that adjustment, he could be used in high-leverage spots.
Sawamura (1-0) picked up his first MLB win, allowing one hit and striking out three over 1.1 innings in Friday's victory over Seattle.
Sawamura entered during the fourth inning for starter Martin Perez, whose lack of command forced manager Alex Cora to go the bullpen early. The pitcher, who entered with two on and two out, struck out Mitch Haniger to prevent any more damage. The Japanese right-hander put Haniger away with a splitter, the pitch with a nasty reputation from his days in Japan. "I think the action is a lot better," Cora said about Sawamura's splitter, per Christopher Smith of MassLive.com. "And it started in Minnesota I think. He threw one at 95 (mph) with great action. It feels like little by little, it's getting there." Sawamura has allowed just two runs over 10 innings (1.80 ERA) while holding opposing batters to a .182 batting average.
Sawamura walked one and hit a batter over a scoreless inning in Tuesday's 6-5 extra-innings win over the Rays.
This was Sawamura's third late-inning appearance, and he remains unscored upon while dancing around three walks, one hit and a hit batsman. He, along with Adam Ottavino, Darwinzon Hernandez and Matt Barnes, are considered the high-leverage, late-inning crew.
Sawamura struck out two over 1.1 perfect innings in Wednesday's spring game against Baltimore.
It was his first clean outing of the spring. In each of his three previous appearances, the right-hander had allowed at least one hit and walk; in fact, he walked three batters in each of his two first outings. Boston manager Alex Cora was encouraged by the results, per Christopher Smith of MassLive.com. "You can tell he feels more comfortable," Cora said. "He's been able to throw sliders for strikes. Today was his best fastball out of all the outings." The Red Sox are chalking up his early struggles to adapting to a new league and culture. Sawamura is expected to serve as a setup option late in games.
Sawamura allowed one run on one hit and three walks while striking out one over two-thirds of an inning in Friday's spring game against Tampa Bay.
Sawamura, who made his Grapefruit League debut, retired the first two batters before giving up a double and three straight walks, which ended the outing prematurely. At this point, the results are not important. The Japanese pitcher got his feet wet against MLB competition and will continue building up to a role in Boston's bullpen. He's next scheduled to pitch Monday.
Sawamura threw an inning in a simulated game Tuesday, Ian Browne of MLB.com reports.
Sawamura threw all of his pitches -- sliders, splitters and fastballs -- and struck out three while allowing only weak contact on a bloop. "For a sim game you can see the fastball, good spin on it, good velocity, the split should be good, and should play," said manager Alex Cora. Sawamura has thrown a bullpen session and sim game, making a yet-to-be-scheduled Grapefruit League debut the likely next step.
Sawamura threw his first bullpen session in camp Wednesday, Ian Browne of MLB.com reports.
Sawamura threw fastballs and splitters during his 23-pitch session. He served as a closer the last two seasons in Japan but is not yet in the closer mix for Boston. However, manager Alex Cora envisions him as part of the crew that will work the final third of games, joining Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez and Adam Ottavino.
Sawamura has arrived in Fort Myers and gone through intake procedures and is expected to join team workouts Monday, Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic reports.
Sawamura was one of several players around the league who faced delays when entering the country for camp. While he certainly would have preferred a full spring to get acclimated to his new club, he still has a month to get up to speed by Opening Day.
Sawamura will not be the Red Sox closer this season, Chris Cotillo of The Springfield Republican reports.
Manager Alex Cora clarified Saturday that the battle was between Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino. Sawamura saved 75 games in his 10-year NPB career, though only two of those have come in the last four seasons, so the idea that he'd jump from a non-closing role in Japan to a closer job at the highest level doesn't make a lot of sense. The Red Sox have yet to get the chance to see Sawamura in person as his arrival has been delayed by visa issues, but he was on his way across the Pacific on Saturday.
Sawamura will fly from Japan to Florida on Saturday, Chris Cotillo of The Springfield Republican reports.
Visa issues have delayed Sawamura as he looks to link up with his new teammates. He'll still face a few more days of delays once he arrives as he goes through the intake process, but he should still have time to ramp up to game shape by Opening day.
Red Sox general manager Chaim Bloom said Sawamura (visa issues) is expected to be in Florida in "a week or so," Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports.
It's unclear if the delay in arrival will cause Sawamura to be unavailable for the start of the regular season. Manager Alex Cora plans to use Sawamura in the final three innings, along with Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino.
Sawamura's arrival at Red Sox camp has been delayed due to visa issues, but he's expected to arrive soon, Chris Cotillo of The Springfield Republican reports.
A handful of players around the league have dealt with similar issues as they enter the country for spring training. The Red Sox would presumably love to have as much time as possible with their new reliever, but it doesn't appear as though Sawamura's readiness for Opening Day is under serious threat.
Sawamura signed a two-year, $2.4 million deal with the Red Sox on Tuesday, Christopher Smith of The Springfield Republican reports.
The 32-year-old has spent the entirety of his professional career playing in Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan, but he'll make his way to the majors in 2021. Sawamura had a 3.05 ERA and 42:28 K:BB over 41.1 innings last season and recorded 73 saves between the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. He figures to start out in middle relief for the Red Sox but could earn his way into a higher-leverage role.
|Last 7 Games|
|05/11||vs OAK||L 2-3||2.0||2||0||0||4|
|05/07||@ BAL||W 6-2||1.0||1||1||0||1|
|05/05||vs DET||L 5-6||1.0||1||0||0||1|
|05/01||@ TEX||L 6-8||1.0||2||1||0||3|
|04/29||@ TEX||L 1-4||1.1||2||2||0||2|
|04/23||vs SEA||W 6-5||1||1.1||1||0||0||3|
|04/21||vs TOR||L 3-6||1.1||1||0||0||2|
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|Minor League Pitching Stats|