Shota Imanaga, the “philosopher of pitching” of DeNA, “Bauer gives me a logical and orderly answer. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Shota Imanaga, the “philosopher of pitching” of DeNA, “Bauer gives me a logical and orderly answer.

I'm listening to the audio of Ichiro's retirement press conference as I enter the stadium.

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When he is not satisfied with his pitches, he goes window shopping. The secret is that he doesn’t buy anything (laughs).

(Laughs.) “A ‘pitching philosopher’? I am honored to be given such a good nickname (laughs).

Shota Imanaga, 30, ace of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars, beamed.

The southpaw, the pride of Japan, was entrusted with the starting mound in the WBC final against the U.S. on March 22 (Japan time).

I was very excited about playing baseball in an American stadium that I had never been to before,” he said, “I thought it was really big and the grass was beautiful.

But when the starting lineup was announced and pitching practice in the bullpen began, I started to get nervous. I was almost engulfed by the bizarre atmosphere of the venue, thinking, “It’s really going to start now. But once I got on the mound, I was determined and threw the ball with all my might.

The philosopher dispelled his evil thoughts and swung his arm with an unmoved mind, allowing only one run in two innings in the pressure-filled game. The Samurai Japan team went on to win the tournament. Upon returning to Japan, Imanaga had no time to dwell on the afterglow of the victory, but instead had to adjust to the season. He had only one month to adjust.

I had been using only the official WBC ball since the off-season, so I trained to get used to the Japanese ball and to be able to pitch long innings as a starter,” he said. It was certainly an overcrowded schedule, but I had completed a good pitching form and movement mechanics last season, so I thought there would be no problem as long as I could continue with that. I wasn’t in a hurry.

True to his analysis, he has won seven games so far this season and has maintained a 2.00 earned-run average (as of August 27), living up to his name as the ace left-hander.

Imanaga says that Cy Young Award-winning pitcher Trevor Bauer (32), who joined the team this season, has a lot to do with this success.

For example, when I ask him why he does what he does, he gives me a reasoned and methodical answer. I asked Bauer a lot of questions because he would give me clear answers no matter what I asked him (laughs). At first, I asked him for technical advice as if I was learning how to throw the most advanced breaking ball from a major leaguer, but now he is the spiritual pillar of the BayStars pitching staff.

Incidentally, what I referred to was the output of his straight. Bauer throws a 149 km/h straight and a 158 km/h straight, depending on the situation. I asked him if I could incorporate this technique into my pitching, and I asked him if I could have a wider range of power output for my straight.

The “philosopher of pitching” also answered this magazine’s questions without hesitation.

He has spun a number of quotes, such as “The name of the losing pitcher will not remain” and “Only a pitcher with a zero point defense ratio can make excuses for not getting any support.

I feed myself from the speeches of various people. I don’t just take what someone says, but I refer to the way they pause and how they choose their words. One of the most impressive speeches was Ichiro’s (49) retirement press conference. I played it in the car on the way to the stadium and thought about it a lot.

What does Imanaga, who is still active, learn from listening to the audio of Ichiro’s retirement press conference?

The day when I will take off my uniform will surely come. I wonder every day what I will have left when that day comes. That is what I am pursuing, and that is why I am devoting myself to baseball.

On September 7, MLB’s official website reported that Imanaga will try out for the Majors this offseason. Imanaga is sure to continue to show us how he lives his life like a samurai wielding a sword to master the way of the Samurai.

Looking back on his pitching in the WBC, he humbly said, “There was never a moment when I thought my ball was good enough.
Shota Imanaga of the DeNA Bay Star’s “Pitching Philosopher” is thinking now.
Shota Imanaga of the DeNA BayStars, a philosopher who throws, is thinking about what he wants to do now.

From “FRIDAY” September 15 and 22, 2023 issue

  • PHOTO Shinji Hamasaki (1st photo)

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