It has been a month of firsts for Seiya Suzuki. The Chicago Cubs rookie outfielder collected his first large league hit throughout his first large league recreation, on Opening Day. His first house run adopted simply 48 hours later. A day after that, he helped the Cubs to a win along with his first multi-homer recreation. Then got here the honors: Nationwide League Participant of the Week, adopted by NL Rookie of the Month for April.
However Suzuki is lacking one factor he’ll want throughout his main league profession after spending 9 seasons taking part in in Japan.
“I am searching for a interest,” Suzuki informed ESPN final week via interpreter Toy Matsushita. “Observe is lots shorter right here. Additionally the time you get to the sector is later. Batting apply is not as lengthy. I’ve extra time.”
Teammate Chris Martin, who performed in Japan for a number of years, understood Suzuki’s amazement on the shorter work days in MLB.
“They work continuous,” Martin stated of baseball gamers in Japan. “They do not really feel ready until they’re working. Even after video games, they’re doing dry swings, figuring out and stuff. They only stored working.”
Martin thinks that Suzuki might want to study to show off the “baseball change” to maintain sharp for a whole 162-game MLB season. He advised video video games or golf nearly as good hobbies to select up. Golf was outfielder Ian Happ‘s thought as properly.
“His dad is into golf,” Happ stated. “Possibly golf is the factor for him.”
The explanation that the Japanese star’s potential off-the-field pursuits have develop into a subject of dialog within the Cubs’ clubhouse is as a result of — at the very least within the early weeks — he already appears to have found out the entire baseball factor.
After signing a five-year, $85 million deal in March, Suzuki has proven he can deal with one of many largest challenges for hitters coming from Japan’s NPB: dealing with main league velocity after shifting from a league recognized extra for finesse pitching. He has posted a 1.047 OPS in opposition to four-seam fastballs and a .947 mark in opposition to two-seamers and sinkers up to now.
In his first 11 video games, he had a 1.478 OPS, however now pitchers are getting a greater thought of how one can pitch him. His subsequent 11 video games produced a .175 batting common and 14 strikeouts in 40 at-bats.
“The opponents did not know me,” Suzuki stated. “There wasn’t a lot information about me. I used to be simply reacting to pitches. Proper now there may be extra information. There are other ways they’re making an attempt to method me.”
So, together with discovering one thing to do with all his spare time, the 27-year-old’s problem is proving that his sizzling begin is the signal of a productive future within the majors and never only a first-month mirage. The Cubs, at the very least, have little question that it is the former.
“We pursued him actually onerous,” president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer defined. “He was simply the proper man for this offseason.”
When Suzuki was searching for an MLB house this offseason, the Cubs had been a staff with out a lot star energy. Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant had been all traded final July. Kyle Schwarber was DFA’d throughout the previous offseason. The strikes left Chicago with out the 4 largest offensive stars from its 2016 World Sequence roster.
However the choice to rebuild left the Cubs with cash to spend and in a winter with a number of high-profile free brokers obtainable, they zeroed in on Suzuki early within the offseason. After a sequence of preliminary Zoom conferences in November, the staff needed to wait out the winter’s 99-day MLB lockout earlier than making its full pitch.
One profit to the delay: It gave the Cubs time to do their homework on Suzuki — maybe greater than on any participant in latest reminiscence.
“‘We’ll have a while, so let’s actually lock in and get a really feel for what our analysis is,'” Hoyer recalled telling his employees. “You not often have the time to try this. Our opinion of him simply stored going up.”
Shortly after the lockout ended, the Cubs brass had the chance to persuade Suzuki to maneuver Chicago to the highest of his checklist.
Hoyer, supervisor David Ross, hitting coach Greg Brown and proprietor Tom Ricketts took Suzuki and Suzuki’s agent, Joel Wolfe, out to dinner in Los Angeles, the place the agent was primarily based, to make their pitch — a face-to-face alternative Hoyer was involved he would not have as a result of velocity of the offseason as soon as free company resumed.
Whereas they could not supply an instantaneous probability to win, a willingness to make a long-term dedication helped the Cubs stand out from a protracted checklist of suitors. Hoyer made it clear to Wolfe from the start that they had been involved in a five-year deal.
“I am positive different groups had been coming in with shorter ones, providing choose outs and stuff,” Hoyer stated. “I wished to put money into him for what we are attempting to construct. An opt-out after two or three years, I do not need that. That does not make sense to us.”
At dinner, the Cubs pulled out all of the stops in promoting the staff’s imaginative and prescient and town of Chicago to Suzuki. A digital presentation of Wrigley Discipline — full with VR goggles — helped the method alongside. “That went about in addition to these issues can go,” Hoyer stated. “I used to be so locked in to only make him conscious of every part we needed to supply, I wasn’t actually assessing issues within the second. So once we had been strolling to the automotive, I stated, ‘I feel it went properly.’ And the opposite guys had been like ‘you thought?’ These guys had somewhat extra consciousness. It did go properly. Then we bought it performed fairly shortly after that.”
Impressed by what the Cubs informed him in California, Suzuki wished to go to Chicago for himself and tour Wrigley Discipline in particular person earlier than committing to the staff. The journey sealed the deal.
“The surroundings was actually vital for me,” he stated. “I wished to get a glimpse of town and discipline earlier than signing. I simply noticed myself there.”
Suzuki instantly confirmed his persona to his new followers in Chicago. He grabbed the microphone at his introductory information convention on the Cubs’ spring coaching facility in Arizona to clarify why he selected to put on No. 27.
“Mike Trout,” he stated with a giant smile. “I like you.”
When he turned on a Main League Baseball recreation in Japan, Suzuki would typically find yourself watching the Angels due to Shohei Ohtani‘s recognition. However though he shared Ohtani’s NPB historical past and his potential to excel on the mound and on the plate, it was the three-time MVP Trout whom Suzuki envisioned himself emulating as his MLB dream grew.
“I used to be a pitcher, however did not need to be a pitcher,” Suzuki stated. “I knew I wasn’t going to be an awesome pitcher.”
Suzuki was chosen as a pitcher by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp within the second spherical of the 2012 NPB draft, however grew to become a full-time place participant upon becoming a member of the staff — and dominated the league as a hitter from his 2015 debut via his 2021 ultimate season, posting a profession .315 batting common, belting 182 house runs and making 5 NPB All-Star groups.
It hasn’t taken lengthy for the mixture of contact, energy and endurance that made him one in all Japan’s finest skilled gamers to impress even his main league idol.
“He is the entire package deal,” Trout stated just lately. “I talked to Shohei about him earlier than he signed. He has a very good method up there. When he will get a ball to hit he is not lacking it.”
After getting a firsthand view of Suzuki on the plate for a month, Cubs teammate Nick Madrigal agreed: “He takes his walks however is aggressive on the identical time. I might say a really skilled method on the plate.
“And he is a whole lot of enjoyable.”
Madrigal and the opposite present Cubs marveled at these first couple weeks. Suzuki was in a brand new nation, new metropolis, new league and taking part in in lower than splendid climate situations. His method by no means wavered. He had 12 hits and 12 walks in his first 11 video games whereas taking part in strong protection in proper discipline.
Now Suzuki should stability working to seek out that early-season type once more with adjusting to a brand new schedule.
“There’s not a lot time to go round Chicago simply but,” Suzuki stated. “I’ll go throughout off days, however I’ve to take care of my energy for the lengthy season.
As straightforward as he made the adjustment look within the early days, there are absolutely struggles forward. However the Cubs already see that Suzuki’s potential to slot in their clubhouse showcases a persona that may win over followers in his new metropolis.
“We have messed with him. He is a very good sport about it,” Martin stated. “You possibly can inform he has a extremely good persona. There is a good vibe.”
Chicago is beginning to really feel it.