SCOTTSDALE — Shun Yamaguchi said he’s done some research into the Giants organization, learning more about the history and the staff that will try to maximize his stuff.
He already had done some accidental research, though, while pitching in Japan.
The 33-year-old recent Giants signing said he watched video of Tim Lincecum — whose changeup that moved like a splitter has some in common with Yamaguchi’s best pitch, which is a splitter — before he tried to break into Major League Baseball.
“[Lincecum is] definitely a special pitcher in my eyes,” Yamaguchi said through translator Yuto Sakurai on Monday. “Moving forward, I would like to study a little bit more about him.”
The Giants will gladly line up more video if it helps.
Yamaguchi, a former Japan League star, came over last season and struggled in Toronto — or rather, in Buffalo, where the Blue Jays were forced to play home game. His luck could not been worse, joining a team for the pandemic season in a new country and all the problems that came with it. He posted an 8.06 ERA in 25 2/3 innings as a reliever, and the Blue Jays DFA’d the righty after the season.
The Giants took a flier on talent that made him an elite pitcher as recently as 2019, when his ERA was 2.78 with 194 strikeouts in 181 innings in Japan. The Giants had international scouts’ eyes on him as he excelled as a starter, and they’ll be stretching him out in that role and seeing how he looks.
“Last year I had no idea which way is right or left. Not knowing anything to be honest with you,” said Yamaguchi, whom Gabe Kapler referred to as “hungry and driven” in the early days of camp. “The training methods I didn’t know about. For this year, after going over last season with the Blue Jays, I have a better understanding of how to go about my days. I’m trying to do my best right here, and I would like to see how much I can do in the major leagues.”
He said he feels stronger this year, and there’s reason to believe it’s stronger mentally, as well.
He has an opt-out in his contract that he likely will trigger if he doesn’t make the roster out of camp, and he’ll have competition. The Giants’ rotation appears set after the addition of Aaron Sanchez, and the club’s righty relief was well-stocked enough that San Francisco designated Trevor Gott for assignment Sunday. But if Yamaguchi taps into the star pitcher he was in Japan, the Giants would love him to a a sign a spot to an arm who can do some of everything.
“Last year I wasn’t satisfied with my results,” Yamaguchi said. “And I want to challenge myself once again.”