Rocky spring traning debut, but Cubs Suzuki just wants to make an impact

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Though they're not expected to be competitve, the Cubs did get better on Friday. A week after leaving Japan and signing a five-year, $85 million contract right fielder Seiya Suzuki debuted for his new team in a Cactus League game against the Rockies at Sloan Park.

    Though they're not expected to be competitve, the Cubs did get better on Friday. A week after leaving Japan and signing a five-year, $85 million contract right fielder Seiya Suzuki debuted for his new team in a Cactus League game against the Rockies at Sloan Park. Courtesy of the Chicago Cubs

 
 
Updated 3/25/2022 6:42 PM

MESA, Ariz -- Even with the playoffs expanding from 10 teams to 12 this season, the Cubs aren't likely to make the field for a second straight season.

There are still too many holes, too many unknowns, not enough talent to challenge the Cardinals and Brewers in the NL Central.

 

With that being said, the Cubs did get better on Friday.

A week after leaving Japan and signing a five-year, $85 million contract -- the Cubs also had to pay the Hiroshima Carp a $14.6 million posting fee -- right fielder Seiya Suzuki debuted for his new team in a Cactus League game against the Rockies at Sloan Park.

The results weren't great -- Suzuki struck out in both at-bats -- but it was his first major-league game after playing the past nine seasons in Japan and the 27-year-old outfielder was a little anxious to get on the field.

"I was literally shaking," Suzuki said through a translator. "Very nervous."

Both of his at-bats were against Colorado ace German Marquez, who was an all star last season.

On his first trip to the plate, the right-handed Suzuki saw three pitches and struck out looking.

On a 2-2 pitch from Marquez during his second at-bat, Suzuki took another called third strike from home-plate umpire Rob Drake. Both strikeout calls were borderline, but Suzuki blamed himself.

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"It's not that different," he said of the strike zone in the majors compared to Japan. "There were some pitches that came in down the zone so I feel I could have done a better job of dealing with that.

"Obviously, the opposing pitcher today was an all-star and I was very happy to be able to face him in my first two at-bats in the major leagues. I just wanted to get adjusted."

It's been a huge adjustment for Suzuki since he arrived in the United States for the first time three weeks ago and joined the Cubs one week ago.

So far, he's pleased with the progress.

"I was very happy to be able to play in front a lot of fans today," Suzuki said. "They were loud so it was very fun. It's been very fun. All my teammates have been very nice and they've been teaching me a lot of things. So I just want to put that into play and just keep on working."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Suzuki was arguably the best player in Japan the past few years. In nine seasons with Hiroshima, he hit .315/.414/.570 with 182 doubles, 16 triples, 182 home runs and 562 RBI over 902 games.

Suzuki was a five-time all star in Nippon Professional Baseball and he also won 5 Gold Gloves.

It's a different game in the major leagues, but Suzuki hopes to blend in with his new teammates and make an impact.

"He's a tremendous player, but also a tremendous person," Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom said. "He's been really good immersing himself with the guys, just wanting to learn, wanting to talk. I think it's huge in terms of his character. It's unique in terms of a culture change, coming over here and there's lots of cameras, lots of people trying to talk to him. He's done a really good job handing it."

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