Arihara ready for next level with Rangers

February 19th, 2021

Right-handed pitcher had never been to Texas before signing with the Rangers in December. But the location didn’t matter to him, he said through interpreter Hiro Fujiwara on Zoom Thursday afternoon.

It was the coaching staff and the organization that made him choose the Rangers. Manager Chris Woodward said they had an extensive Zoom call with Arihara before he signed in which they explained what the organization was about.

“It was the analysis they made,” Arihara said. “They obviously pointed out the good points in my pitching, but in addition to that they also pointed out places that I could improve. And that was really interesting to me. And if I could work on the things that they pointed out, I thought I could grow as a player and play at a higher level, so that's definitely why I wanted to play [for] the Rangers.”

Through the first two days of Spring Training, Arihara said he’s having fun getting to know his new teammates and getting into the rhythm with the club.

Woodward said getting to know Arihara and developing the relationship between the pitcher and the coaching staff is one of the most important aspects in Spring Training.

“And from there, obviously, you know he gains the trust in our pitching coaches and myself and how we're using him and what our expectations are. [We're] just trying to make them better, trying to make them the best pitcher you can possibly be at this level,” Woodward said.

Arihara came to MLB from the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Nippon Professional League. He went 8-9 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP through 132 2/3 innings in 2020, averaging 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He was also the Pacific League’s Rookie of the Year in '15.

Arihara said he wanted to play in MLB since his fourth year in college. Now that he’s reached that goal, he wants to be successful at this level of the sport on a consistent basis.

Though he hasn’t faced hitters yet, Arihara knows it’ll be an adjustment from Japan.

“I definitely have some pitch patterns and selections that I've distinguished myself with in Japan,” Arihara said. “So I definitely want to see how effective those patterns will be over here.”

One of the biggest challenges for Arihara will be the different texture of the baseballs. In Japan, the balls are more sticky, with a tacky substance on them, as opposed to the more slick balls in MLB.

Arihara threw his first bullpen Thursday, but it was only only up to about 30 pitches. He mostly worked on getting a feel for himself and his grip on the ball.

Paying attention to how the ball moves with certain pitches will be a development for Arihara, especially for the splitter, which he said needs to be fine-tuned in Spring Training.

“There's gonna be a learning curve,” Woodward said. “But we like his stuff and his makeup and his ability to, in the past, make changes and adjust on the fly. Sometimes bigger changes than others, and he just made himself very successful in Japan. I think that's what we're expecting here.”