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Elephant Rumblings: Fujinami simplifies with aim to improve

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Happy Monday, Athletics Nation!

Shintaro Fujinami hasn’t delivered what the A’s were hoping for when they signed the 29-year-old Japan League veteran to a one-year, $3.25 million deal ahead of the 2023 season. Fuji has electric stuff, but he’s struggled with command throughout his career. He was a high-upside but risky signing that has so far produced worst-case results.

  • Fujinami, 2023: 23 IP, 7.99 K/9, 7.99 BB/9, 12.17 ERA, 6.20 FIP

Fuji was moved to the bullpen after four starts that were mostly disastrous. He’s struggled in relief, as well, though his last two appearances were solid.

Per Matt Kawahara at the San Francisco Chronicle, the A’s are working with Fujinami towards a more simplified approach. One adjustment is for Fuji to focus on a smaller pitch repertoire, including his fastball, cutter, and splitter.

Fuji is doing more “shadow work,” throwing imaginary pitches to his interpreter with mindfulness of his body movements, concentrating on kinesthetic feel rather than body positioning. One desired result of these exercises is to avoid overthinking mechanics during games.

Both Fuji and pitching coach Scott Emerson agree that the MLB newcomer needs to get a feel for the zone and attack it. If Fuji throws strikes, his stuff should play well. Is Fuji’s success in the past week out of the bullpen an early sign that this simplified approach is paying off? Time will tell.

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