SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In his first statement during a press conference to announce his signing with the D-backs, Yoshihisa Hirano started off by saying, "Call me Yoshi."It is that friendliness, along with the positive way he carries himself, that has impressed his Arizona teammates through the first week of Spring
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In his first statement during a press conference to announce his signing with the D-backs, Yoshihisa Hirano started off by saying, "Call me Yoshi."
It is that friendliness, along with the positive way he carries himself, that has impressed his Arizona teammates through the first week of Spring Training.
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"He just looks like he belongs," said D-backs reliever Archie Bradley, who appeared with Hirano in a Q&A with fans on Saturday. "He answered a few questions in English, and it was fun to be up there with him. I don't know him very well yet, but I'm looking forward to talking more with him."
Hirano, who will turn 34 next month, is battling with Bradley and Brad Boxberger for the closer's role, a spot he was comfortable in while pitching in Japan.
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Hirano signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent contract with the D-backs after spending the past 12 seasons with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball League. Since 2010, he has appeared in 476 games as a reliever and compiled a 2.30 ERA with 156 saves.
The big leagues may be a new situation for Hirano, but he hasn't shown any sign of nerves.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo was immediately impressed with what he said was a confident and calm way that Hirano carried himself. While he had seen Hirano pitch on video, Lovullo did not see him throw in person until Thursday's bullpen session.
"The thing that stood out for me is that he first established fastball command, and he threw a lot of fastballs before he was satisfied and moved on to the split," Lovullo said. "The split, it's hard to gauge until you have a hitter up there, [but] it looked like he was able to throw it, bury it -- possibly at two-strike location, and also throw it up there for a strike."
Hirano features a fastball, split and curve, and the D-backs' reports on him said he can throw all three for strikes.
"My specialty is fastball/split, but the most important thing is to be able to execute each of those pitches," Hirano said. "I feel like I was able to do that in Japan, and I'm hoping I can do the same in the big leagues."
Hirano had other suitors this spring, but the D-backs impressed him with their presentation. His relationship with the team's director of Pacific Rim operations, Mack Hayashi, also helped.
"The D-backs were the first team that made me an offer," Hirano said. "And when me and my family came over to visit Arizona in December, general manager Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo were there. They greeted my family warmly, made my family feel like we were at home already."
Hirano has an interpreter with him, but is working on his English.
"It's a very important thing, and I am going to take that seriously to communicate as much as I can on my own," Hirano said of talking to his teammates. "But my wife is going to take English lessons on her own, so hopefully she can be my tutor."
Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.