Tsutsugo makes Rays Spring Training debut

February 15th, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- While ’s performance on the field will ultimately decide if the two-year, $12 million deal was a good investment on the Rays' part, the organization's focus this spring is to help the 28-year-old slugger get acclimated to the United States and the Major Leagues.

Tsutsugo, who reported to camp on Saturday and drew much media attention, will have to get adjusted to the various changes that range from everyday cultural differences to getting used to increased velocity and movement from Major League pitching.

“I’m very excited to be in this facility right now,” Tsutsugo said through an interpreter. “I met a lot of good people today, and I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and be a good teammate.”

As Tsutsugo entered the clubhouse Saturday, he was immediately greeted by Blake Snell, Willy Adames, Kevin Kiermaier and a handful of other future teammates. Once he stepped out on the field for his workout, Tsutsugo had conversations with manager Kevin Cash and hitting coach Chad Mottola.

“I thought he was really received well,” Cash said. “His teammates, from what we know, are really going to enjoy him. He carries a presence. He’s carried a presence in Japan, and I think he’ll do the same here once he gets acclimated. We just have to afford him the ability to get acclimated.”

On the field, there’s still a lot of intrigue about what Tsutsugo can bring to the table. He enjoyed an illustrious 10-year career in Japan, but he admitted the biggest adjustment will be how quickly he can get acclimated to the increase in velocity and the different movements on pitches. During Spring Training, Tsutsugo believes he’ll only need about 40 at-bats, which is how many he needed in Japan to be ready for the regular season.

“There are a lot of main differences,” Tsutsugo said of the adjustment period. “I think the main difference is the way the pitcher throws a lot of different actions, but I just want to get used to things one at a time.”

Defensively, the Rays will also have to figure out where Tsutsugo fits best. The current plan is for the club to use Tsutsugo as a left fielder, designated hitter and will also look to see how comfortable he looks at first base.

How it all unfolds will be something to watch throughout the spring, and even his teammates are looking forward to how it all transpires.

“I think a lot of people are very excited to watch Yoshi take the field and see what he’s capable of,” Kiermaier said. “Hopefully he can put on a show, and just bring another dangerous element to our team with a lot of talent. We’ll take as many of those guys as we can get.”