PAWTUCKET, R.I. Starting the season in Triple-A was not what left-hander Hideki Okajima had in mind when he re-signed as a free agent with the Red Sox in January. Had he known, would he have signed back with the Sox?
Probably not, he said Thursday night through an interpreter before the Pawtucket Red Sox' Opening Night game against the Rochester Red Wings at McCoy Stadium.
He pitched a scoreless inning in the PawSox' 2-1 win, recording a strikeout in what was the first minor-league appearance of his career. He had spent all of his first four seasons in North America in the major leagues with the Red Sox -- making the All-Star team as a rookie in 2007 -- and he admitted the demotion affects his pride.
But after going 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA last season, allowing righties to hit .340 and lefties .284, the move was not completely unexpected to most observers. Okajima still has minor-league options, so the team could send him down without the risk of losing him via waivers.
Its all up to the front office and manager Terry Francona, Okajima said. So its nothing that I can do. I dont take it as an insult.
He had offers from other teams, he said, and in hindsight maybe he would still be in the big leagues if he had taken one of those.
But at the end of the day my family wanted to be in Boston, he said. So thats why I made this decision and I accept that.
He compared the move to when he was traded just before the start of the 2006 season in Japan, which caught him by surprise.
Thats how I felt, he said. I wish they would have told me earlier this was going to happen because that would have allowed me to be prepared for things, prepare for the season, just get myself mentally prepared.
He said the Sox did not give him specific instructions for things to work on in Pawtucket.
Pretty much what he was told was that although he improved toward the end of last season and pitched well during the spring, they still wanted him to start the season in Triple-A and regain his consistency and just get a few more outings before he gets the call up, said the interpreter. So thats pretty much what hes going to be working on.
Dennys Reyes, the only left-hander in the Sox pen, has struggled greatly since the start of the season. In four games, he has recorded just 1 23 innings pitched, with a 16.20 ERA, giving up two hits, two walks, with one strikeout. Overall, he has thrown 39 pitches, only 17 for strikes. In two of his outings, he has not recorded an out.
In Wednesdays game against the Indians, he faced three batters, hitting the first two and walking the next before exiting. He threw 12 pitches, just one for a strike. His season-high for hit batters is four, in 2004 with Kansas City in 108 innings.
Okajima said he has paid no attention to dismal the start of the big-league teams season, or to Reyes performance.
No, I havent been watching the big-league games right now, he said. I dont want too much TV.
He said hes not surprised at the teams start.
Not really, he said. I think it shows the reality of where the team stands at this point. The same reality that Im starting down here, theyre struggling up there.
The team hasnt told him when or if he might be recalled, he said.
No, I just have to do what I have to do down here and well see what happens, he said.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen