New Seattle Mariners left-hander Yusei Kikuchi returned to Japan on Sunday after completing his move to the major leagues this past week and was excited to begin preparing for his next step.
Speaking to reporters at Narita airport outside Tokyo, Kikuchi, one of Japan’s top pitchers the past two seasons, implied that his track record now meant nothing.
“I’m starting all over again from scratch,” he said. “Because of that, I want to make a good impression, earn a spot in the starting rotation and perform at a high level throughout the season.”
“On top of my sense that they were the team that needed me the most, the Mariners were also the first team to make an offer.”
The pitcher traveled to the United States in the middle of December, and his contract was announced by the Mariners just hours before Wednesday’s deadline to either sign or return to Japan for 2019.
“With all that’s been going on, I haven’t trained in almost a week. I want to build myself up so that I can arrive in camp and be in good shape from Day 1,” he said.
Kikuchi, who missed roughly three weeks last May due to shoulder stiffness, had resumed playing in catch this past December, a bit earlier than he had a year ago.