Kodai Senga Makes North American Debut Against Cardinals
JUPITER, Fla. — In one of the most anticipated debuts by a Japanese player since Shohei Ohtani, Mets righthander Kodai Senga took the mound against the Cardinals on Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Senga showed off four pitches in a mid-to-high-90s four-seam fastball, a high-80s cutter, a curveball at 79-82 mph and his notorious “Ghost” forkball.
Early in the start Senga struggled with command as he walked Brendan Donovan and Tyler O’Neill to open the game. He then fell behind 3-0 to reigning National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt before settling in and throwing seven consecutive strikes on his way to retiring him and Nolan Arenado.
Senga’s final at-bat of the first came against spring training hero Jordan Walker. He showed the full array of his arsenal to Walker, starting the at-bat with a 90 mph cutter out of the zone, followed by a 98 mph fastball for a called strike, an 83 mph sweeper Walker fouled off and an 83 mph forkball that Walker swung and missed on for the strikeout.
To start off the second Senga quickly got ahead on Nolan Gorman, but Gorman worked the count back full. He then retired Gorman on a questionable 95 mph fastball for a called strike. He retired Alec Burleson on two pitches before hanging a sweeper to catcher Tres Barrera that was deposited over the left field wall for a home run. The inning ended when Senga got Masyn Winn to pop out to second base.
When the dust settled, Senga threw just over half of his pitches for strikes, generated four swinging strikes and struggled with his command.
When asked to walk through his second inning strikeout versus Senga, Cardinals infielder Nolan Gorman talked through Senga’s arsenal.
“He’s got a good fastball, it’s electric upper 90s," Gorman said. "I was able to see his splitter on the last pitch to Walker, so I knew what it did. It’s a good pitch, it’s slow, so it can throw guys off for sure. It moved quite a bit. Good pitcher … probably wasn’t his best outing in terms of the amount of strikes he wanted to throw. He has good stuff, and shows a lot of good pitches.”
When asked about Senga’s deception, Gorman felt he could identify the shapes out of his hand.
“Out of the hand I could see his shapes pretty well, I saw one splitter and was able to identify it well and lay off of it," Gorman said.
Senga recorded the win and showed glimpses of what earned him a $75 million contract from the Mets. Scouts in attendance saw his fastball as a plus pitch and his forkball as his best secondary—it also earned plus grades from evaluators. His cutter and sweeper earned lukewarm reviews. Despite the hiccups there’s little doubt that Senga will slot comfortably into the middle of the Mets rotation.