Cherington on Japanese pitching phenom Otani

872703.jpg

Cherington on Japanese pitching phenom Otani

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington confirmed that the team has met with Japanese right-hander Shohei Otani, the high school phenom. But, Cherington offered little more than that.

I can confirm that we met with him, but Im not going to say anything else, Cherington said. Hes a respected young pitching prospect in Japan.

I dont want to get into what we do to try to evaluate players, but he is someone weve talked about.

The Yankees, Orioles, Rangers, and Dodgers are reportedly also interested in Otani, who has expressed his preference for pitching in Major League Baseball, requesting that Japanese teams do not draft him. The Japanese draft is Thursday.

Great players from every country go to MLB, Otani said on Sunday, according to Japanese sports newspaper Sponichi. I dont want to lose to those players.

In coming to the United States, Otani, who is just 18, would have challenges any other teenager would have leaving a familiar environment to enter a foreign culture. Just as there are challenges for a team bringing in such a player.

This isnt specific to Otani, Cherington said, but any young player whos a teenage player who comes to the United States, whether theyre from the Dominican, Korea, or Taiwan, theres an assimilation challenge. Its important for us to help them assimilate in a way, get
comfortable in a way that they can focus on their work on the field and developing as baseball players. So if youre going to invest in signing a young player and bringing him out of his comfort zone, out of his home country to the United States and a different environment, you have an obligation to surround them with the right resources and get them as comfortable as we can. So we do that to the best of our ability no matter where the player's from.

The Sox have had similar experiences in recent years with Japanese pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, Junichi Tazawa, and Hideki Okajima. Matsuzaka and Okajima had already established careers in Japan before coming to the U.S. Tazawa was 22 when the Sox signed him in December 2008 after four seasons in the Japanese industrial league. He pitched just one season in the Sox organization, including six games and four starts for the major league team, before undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2010. He was not activated until June 27, 2011.He blossomed this season, going 1-1 with a 1.43 ERA in 37 appearances, a 0.955 WHIP and 9.00 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

In Tazawas case we spent a lot of time trying to make sure the right resources were around him, Cherington said. In particular when he went through surgery, coming back from that. Its a difficult thing to do for a young pitcher in a foreign country. So we feel like were built to address the challenges that come for players from any part of the world.

Cherington said he has not spoken to Matsuzaka since the end of the season, and has not had any communication with agent Scott Boras, who counts Matsuzaka among his many clients. Matsuzaka is eligible to be a free agent, after six seasons with the Sox.

We have not had any discussions with Matsuzaka yet, Cherington said. Wouldnt rule it out, but havent had any discussion with him yet. Im sure hes going to have a chance to talk to other teams and see whats out there for him. Our expectation is that he wants to pitch. Certainly respect the way he went about things here even thought the last few seasons didnt go the way he wanted them to. He was always professional, worked extremely hard, and gave it everything he had when he was out there. Hopefully, hell be two years out of surgery next year, hell be in a better position to do what hes capable of doing."

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

Blakely: Thomas isn't a starter, but new All-Star voting is an improvement

BOSTON – There’s certainly some disappointment among Celtics Nation that Isaiah Thomas just missed out on being an All-Star starter in the East.

But one thing we can certainly see with the new voting system … it works way better than the old way of choosing starters.

This was the first year that the NBA decided to allow current NBA players as well as a select panel of media choose who the starting five in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be.

The fan vote would count for 50 percent while media and players would each represent 25 percent of the final tally.

From there, the players would receive a fan ranking, a media ranking and a player ranking.

Because of the aforementioned breakdown – fans count for 50 percent while media and players represent 25 percent of the vote – the fan ranking would be counted twice while the media and player rankings would be counted once.

Let’s look at Isaiah Thomas’ situation which ultimately came down to him and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan for the final starting spot in the backcourt.

Thomas was fourth in the fan voting, second in the player voting and first among guards in the media voting. So when you add the fan voting (4 *2) + player voting (2 *1) + media voting (1*1), you get a total of 11 which is then divided by 4 to arrive at a score of 2.75.

Now let’s look at DeRozan.

He was third in the fan voting, third in the player ranking and second in the media voting among guards. So his score when you add the fan voting (3*2) + player voting (3*1) + media voting (2*1), you get a total of 11 which when divided by 4 brings you to a score of 2.75 – same as Thomas.

The tiebreaker was the fan vote which meant DeRozan and not Thomas, would get the starting nod in next month’s All-Star game.

As much as it may suck that Thomas lost out because of this system, he would not have had a shot at being a starter under the old system in which the fans were the ones to pick starters.

In fact, it would have been Chicago’s Dwyane Wade in the starting lineup under the old system.

No disrespect to D-Wade, but he has not had an All-Star worthy season. And had the old system been in place, he would be an all-star and thus take up a roster spot of another player who frankly, is more deserving.

And if you take a glance out West, they too would have had a starter who has not had an All-Star caliber season.

Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia finished second in the voting among Western Conference forwards, fueled in large part to his home country, Georgia, voting early and often for him. Because of the media and player voting, Pachulia wound up sixth among Western Conference big men which is still too high when you consider some of the players behind him – Memphis’ Marc Gasol, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan – who are all having better seasons.

While no one would say this new system is perfect, considering how this year’s voting would have panned out under the old rules, this change by the league is a good one that should stick around.

NOTE: I was among the media panelists selected by the NBA to vote for this year’s All-Star starters. My selections in the East were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Kevin Love and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. My Western Conference selections were Kevin Durant of Golden State, Anthony Davis of New Orleans and Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio in the frontcourt, with Houston’s James Harden and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in the backcourt.