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'He's comfortable.' Yoshinobu Yamamoto continues Dodgers acclimation with strong spring debut.

Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

PHOENIX — When the Dodgers signed Yoshinobu Yamamoto this offseason, pitching coach Mark Prior knew there would be cultural differences to bridge with the star Japanese right-hander.

It didn't take long this spring for them to stumble upon even the most mundane examples.

During one of their first conversations at Dodgers camp, as the team planned out Yamamoto's schedule for the spring, Prior asked his new starter about his routine for "touch and feel" bullpen sessions — brief, low-effort throwing activities mostly meant to keep a pitcher's delivery in-sync between more extensive full-intensity outings.

"Our version of 'touch-and-feel' is like a nice and easy 10-15 [pitches]," Prior said. "Maybe the catcher is even standing up."

Yamamoto's interpretation of the drill, on the other hand, was strikingly different.

"His 'touch-and-feel' is like [throwing fastballs] 92 mph," Prior relayed recently with a laugh, noting such velocity is hardly a drop from Yamamoto's typical mid-90s speed.

 

"We've been understanding the nuances of some of those things," Prior added. "Making sure we put things into his words."

Indeed, while Yamamoto has impressed in his bullpens, live batting practice sessions and, on Tuesday, a scoreless two-inning Cactus League debut against the Texas Rangers, it's the comfort and chemistry that the $325 million pitcher is developing with Dodgers personnel that have been among the biggest developments for the team this spring.

Club staff have marveled at Yamamoto's unique pitching style and training regime.

Coaches and teammates have praised his combination of command and raw stuff.

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