Dodgers’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto Leaves Ex-MLBer ‘Shocked’ After Disastrous Game

Dodgers RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto (right) struggled in his 2024 debut.

Getty Dodgers RHP Yoshinobu Yamamoto (right) struggled in his 2024 debut.

It’s been a rocky start to the 2024 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and if anyone in the organization should be secretly relieved that there’s a scandal overshadowing the team, it is pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto.

It is bad enough that Yamamoto had a disastrous first start to his MLB career, but what’s more concerning is that he has looked entirely in over his head since taking the field after signing a 12-year, $325 million contract to leave Japan in the offseason.

ESPN analyst and 13-year MLB veteran Eduardo Perez was present for Yamamoto’s first start, in which he lasted one inning and gave up five runs on four hits and a walk to start a 15-11 loss to the Padres. He threw 43 pitches and induced a swing-and-miss only twice. Perez came away with a heap of questions about Yamamoto, “shocked” by doubts about how effective he might be for this Dodgers bunch.

“My read was that there was not a lot of confidence early on,” Perez told ESPN’s Buster Olney on the “Baseball Tonight” podcast. “(Xander) Bogaerts swung at the first pitch, got that base hit, hit it hard, and after that, he was a little tentative with the fastball. Did not have command of the curveball. Did not have command of the splitter, at all. The only pitch her really did have command was the cutter and just did not throw pitches with conviction.”

Yoshinobu Yamamoto Struggling With Nerves?

Perez did offer some comfort for Dodgers fans, pointing out that the start took place in front of all-time Japanese greats like Daisuke Matsuzaka and Koji Uehara.

There were, obviously, nerves taking their toll on Yamamoto. That does not exactly cause the Dodgers faithful to rest easy, though. Knowing the new nine-figure pitcher can’t handle nerves does not bode well for a team that struggles in the playoffs.

One of the major issues for Yamamoto is the deconstruction of his windup, which has been simplified into a step-and-throw action. The Dodgers felt that was necessary to cut down on stolen bases, but it appears to have robbed Yamamoto of the deception factor as he approaches the plate.

There was also talk of tipping his pitches. Yamamoto has been tinkering with his glove placement to thwart sign-stealers. Trying to incorporate small suggestions from a variety of sources may be counterproductive for Yamamoto at this point.

“I’m wondering if he’s not comfortable with (pitching) right now. He is listening to many people telling him that he is tipping or not. I think he has got to get to who he has been the whole time, and throwing pitches with conviction,” Perez said.

Dodgers Have Reason to Worry

The big picture on Yamamoto looks a bit grim. The poor initial start comes after a rough spring training in which Yamamoto went 0-1 with an 8.38 ERA. It is reasonable to expect him to make adjustments to pitching in the big leagues, but for Yamamoto, the adjustments have been constant.

And they seem to show a player whose confidence is already shot. That, Perez said, was a “shock.”

“The Dodgers are committed 12 years to this guy and that’s something that you have to definitely take into account, and I’m hoping that they understand that adjustments will be made throughout his career,” Perez said.

“But I’m shocked early on because in Spring Training he did struggle, over an 8.00 ERA, that they were already making adjustments before he even made his first pitch. Jury’s still gonna be out on whether this was a great signing or not but right now, it’s time to regroup and get back to the basics.”

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