Hasegawa looks to rebound from awful 2004 season

  • By Kirby Arnold / Herald Writer
  • Friday, March 18, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

PEORIA, Ariz. – This is Shigetoshi Hasegawa’s year to redeem himself.

Just about every other Seattle Mariner can say that, too, after a 99-loss, last-place season that defied anyone’s expectations.

For Hasegawa, it was personal.

He had come off a spectacular season in 2003 and had earned his first appearance in the All-Star game, and he went into 2004 focused on the next unfulfilled goal in his career: a trip to the postseason.

The Mariners, a veteran-filled team, got off to a poor start and played under so much self-induced pressure that they struggled the entire season. Hasegawa, a right-hander who had been one of the team’s top relief pitchers, was one of them.

His earned run average spiked, from 1.48 in 2003 to 5.16 in 2004, when he lost his usual command of the lower part of the strike zone.

“Last year I was thinking too much,” said Hasegawa, 36, who begins his ninth major league season. “I know I have only a few years left and I want to play in the playoffs. I felt last year was the year to get there and coming off the year I had, I was sure we would be a World Series contender. We weren’t and that’s why I was so upset all year.”

Hasegawa promises not to get himself involved in such lofty goals this season, even though the Mariners’ improved offense and defense should be a boon to the pitching.

“Some people say this is the most important year of my career, but I don’t think that way,” said Hasegawa, who is signed through this season, with a team option for 2006. “My goal is to go pitch-by-pitch and enjoy every day. I can’t think about other things.”

So far at spring training, that approach has worked well. Hasegawa’s 5.40 ERA is far from impressive, but that’s common in Arizona where the air is dry, infields are hard and baseballs shoot through the infields.

In his last three outings, however, Hasegawa has allowed just three hits and one earned run.

“Spring training can be very misleading,” pitching coach Bryan Price said. “Very rarely do you have these guys throwing the ball well and locating and doing the things that lead to success early. It’s not always a barometer if a guy’s going to have a good year or not.”

In a perfect bullpen, the Mariners would use Hasegawa in a late-inning setup role although he’s capable of pitching in any situation. With a sinker that is effective against left-handers and an ability to pitch more than one inning at a time, he has worked in long relief, setup and even as a closer. He saved 16 games in 2003 after Kazuhiro Sasaki was injured.

“He was 15-for-16 in save opportunities,” Price said. “But I think where he fits best for us is in a middle role. He’s a guy who’ll get in there around the sixth or seventh inning who will be the bridge between a quality start and the closer.

“He’s very capable of doing that and he thrives in that role, but I don’t think that’s where his true value is. I see him as a very functional, usable, successful middle guy.”

What’s important is that he keeps the ball low. At 5 feet 11 inches and 175 pounds, he doesn’t have the size or velocity to throw the ball past hitters. He must rely on location and movement, especially low in the strike zone, to get hitters to beat the ball into the ground.

“He’s not a guy who can pitch between the thighs and the belt, that’s for sure,” Price said.

The Mariners also would like Hasegawa to throw his slider more to left-handed hitters and throw a high fastball occasionally to keep hitters off balance.

“There’s room for improvement there,” Price said.

Then there’s the mindset.

Price said Hasegawa became caught in the trap that almost every M’s pitcher did last season, trying too hard to overcome his poor start.

“I think he went out there and had that All-Star season two years ago and set a pretty high bar for himself,” Price said. “And when he got off to such a poor start last year, he was going, ‘Oh my Gosh. I’m not the same guy. What’s happening?’”

It won’t happen again, Hasegawa said.

“I can’t think about other things,” he said. “As long as I concentrate on the hitters and nothing else, I think I’ll be fine. I learned a lot from last year.

“I never want to go through a season like that again.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Arlington’s defense stuffs Ferndale running back Talan Bungard on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023, at Arlington High School in Arlington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Arlington steamrolls Ferndale in 3A Wesco North showdown

The Eagles light up offense in the first half, finish business to earn a 46-14 win.

Lake Stevens High School head football coach Tom Tri hoists his team’s championship trophy during a community parade and celebration Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
The Herald’s 2022-23 Man of the Year in Sports: Tom Tri

The Lake Stevens coach guided the Vikings to Snohomish County’s first large classification football state title in more than 30 years.

West Linn’s Ryan Vandenbrink (23) runs with the ball during a football game between Lake Stevens and West Linn at Lake Stevens High School in Lake Stevens, Washington on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. West Linn won, 49-30. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Turnovers cost Lake Stevens in loss to Oregon power West Linn

The Vikings’ run of 35 straight home wins in the regular season ends in an interstate showdown of big-school state champions.

Marysville Pilchuck’s Christian Van Natta lifts the ball in the air to celebrate a turnover during the game against Marysville Getchell on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22

Prep football roundup for Friday, Sept. 22: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report… Continue reading

Lynnwood teammates mob senior Abbie Orr (4) after her impressive dig led to a point against Jackson during a volleyball match Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, at Lynnwood High School in Bothell, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Lynnwood volleyball team continues rise to prominence

After ending a 20-year state drought last season, the Royals are surging again and have vaulted to No. 3 in Class 3A in the new WSVCA poll.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) scrambles up field during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Seahawks set to host Panthers, honor past while focused on present

Seattle will honor the 10-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl championship during Sunday’s game.

Jackson High’s Ben Lee lunges to get to the ball against Kamiak on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022, at the Kamiak Tennis Courts in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Prep boys tennis season preview: Players and teams to watch

A look at the area’s top athletes and teams on the tennis court this fall.

Fall prep sports roundup.
Prep roundup for Saturday, Sept. 23

Also, Friday’s non-football prep results.

Austin Roest prepares to take a wrist shot during the first day of Silvertips training camp on Thursday, August 31, 2023, at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Dad is an NHL bigwig, but Silvertips’ Roest carving his own path

The 19-year-old forward and son of Stanley Cup-winning executive Stacy Roest leads the Silvertips into the 2023-24 season.

Most Read