Bobby Valentine says A's shortstop will round into form
Longtime Japan League manager says Nakijima just needs time to adjust
Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at 10:52 p.m.
PHOENIX -- It's been a tough spring for A's shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima as he tries to make the transition from being a star in Japan to playing in the U.S.
But Bobby Valentine, who saw Nakajima play numerous games in Japan, says things likely will get better.
The former manager of the Rangers, Mets and Red Sox, who was in San Francisco for the World Baseball Classic, was asked about Nakajima by this newspaper's Dan Brown. Valentine managed against Nakajima as skipper of the Chiba Lotte Marines.
And Valentine seems relatively unconcerned about the slow spring for Nakajima that includes a .176 batting average and four errors.
``I think he'll be able to hit once he learns some of the pitchers,'' Valentine said in addressing Nakajima's offense. ``He has to learn to take some of the pitches that they'll be throwing at him.''
Nakajima came to the A's as one of the more prolific offensive shortstops in recent Japanese history with a .310 average and 17-plus homers per year the last six seasons with Seibu.
The knock on him was his defense, but from Valentine's vantage point, Nakajima should be able to at least hold his own in the big leagues.
``He played in the same division that I managed,'' Valentine said. ``He's a quality player, a quality major league player. I'm not sure that he's going to be able to go to his right and be a great shortstop. But I think he could be a good player.
``I don't know that he'll play great for the Oakland A's. He has world class abilities. His challenge will be his arm. He has to learn the speed of the runners and adjust to the length of the grass. The skills don't always translate.''
Nakajima played mostly on artificial turf in Japan. With the A's, he'll play his home games, and most of his road games, on grass. He's going to have to acclimatize to that difference. And that's not all.
``The hardest thing will be adjusting to the community — but he probably should,'' Valentine said. ``He's a very vivacious guy. He's really smart.
``I had a lot of guys playing in Japan that were very successful in the United States and they came to Japan and couldn't acclimate to the culture — and they stunk. It's all about acclimation.''
The A's were off Wednesday, the club's last off day until March 31. The exception to that was starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, who worked in a minor league game so as to keep on schedule. Colon, who has five days left on his suspension for the use of performance-enhancing drugs, will join the starters the second time through the rotation. He was roughed up on Wednesday, yielding five runs on 10 hits in five-plus innings.
Because of the off-day, the A's will be giving their starting pitchers an extra day off so to line up Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily. One of the five will be ousted from the rotation once Colon becomes eligible.