Today’s start confirmed several things that we know pretty clearly know about what we’ll get from Shintaro Fujinami this season. First off, we know we’re only going to be seeing him once a week, with Mark Kotsay announcing that every Saturday will be Fuji Day. The second thing we know is that his pure stuff is as unhittable as maybe any other pitcher in the major leagues, showcased by his six hitless frames against the Milwaukee Brewers.
He can blow by guys with his high-octane, sometimes triple-digit fastball or he can get them chasing on one of his many offspeed offerings, including the nasty slider seen above.
Lastly, we know his stuff won’t always be enough to overcome his lacking command. It seems like Fuji alternates between having more strikeouts than walks and more walks than strikeouts in each given start. And on a day like today, where the Brewers didn’t have any chance of making quality contact off of Fuji, he still allowed 4 walks, two of which scored in the 4th inning following 2 wild pitches and a groundball double play. Vanishing the A’s 2-run lead, Fuji will need to learn how to harness his stuff in order to prevent the consequences.
Fuji has uncorked 3 wild pitches today and 2 this inning pic.twitter.com/GfHrQPXckw— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) March 25, 2023
Regardless, I think Saturdays will overall be a treat for A’s fans. Though it will be severely frustrating at times seeing bases-loaded walks and wild pitch runs, watching the 28-year-old phenom attempt to carve hitters up with his loaded arsenal will always be eventful.
And hey, despite all of his wildness today, the A’s were still in a great position to win by the time he came out of the game. The team scored two early runs in the 2nd inning, highlighted by a soaring single to right field that continued Kevin Smith’s hot streak and gave him his team-high 15th RBI. Here’s to hoping he makes the team and gets to at least platoon against lefties at third.
With the game tied 2-2 until the 7th, the Brewers mounted a late-game 3-run lead by hitting a string of singles off minor league A’s relievers Charles Hall and Jake Fishman. The A’s stormed right back, starting with back-to-back 1-out walks from top prospect Brett Harris and former top prospect Greg Deichmann. Another top prospect, Denzel Clarke, singled to load the bases. A groundout from forgotten Montas trade piece Cooper Bowman shortened the lead to 5-3. Then, freshly signed catcher Carlos Perez smacked a fly ball to left-center field to bring the other to baserunners in and tie the game back up at 5-5. With the backup catcher spot now down to him and the less experienced Kyle McCann, Perez made a loud case for himself today.
Carlos Pérez with a well-timed 2-run 2B in the Cactus League finale. Helping himself in backup catcher competition while Manny Piña is out pic.twitter.com/3oYtVybKT9— The Rickey Henderson of Blogs (@RickeyBlog) March 25, 2023
Unfortunately, the A’s bullpen couldn’t hang onto the tie for 2 more innings, with AAA reliever Hunter Breault giving up a 2-out double to Wes Clarke that scored what ended up as the winning run. The earlier mentioned Clarke (the one on our side) did his best to tie the game back up, first taking a 1-out walk before stealing both 2nd and 3rd base, but the A’s couldn’t get him in.
As the A’s fly home to the Bay for a two-game series against the San Francisco Giants, they can feel good about their time in Arizona. Despite a losing record, the team saw a lot of promise and performance out of many guys who were on the road to irrelevance. It’s time to test whether those small samples can carry over to a larger one in Oakland.