Oakland Athletics right-hander Shintaro Fujinami made his big-league debut on Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels (GameTracker) in what looked like a fitting assignment. Fujinami, after all, had been a prominent high-school rival of Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Unfortunately for him, a promising start devolved into a boat race that left him with an ugly line.
Shintaro Fujinami, Filthy 92mph Splitter. 😷 pic.twitter.com/4fe2fd5ZuQ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 1, 2023
Fujinami, 28, retired six consecutive batters to begin his start. He struck out four of those six, including Mike Trout, and coerced a harmless groundout from Ohtani that wrapped up the first inning. Fujinami's afternoon went south in the third inning. Take a look at the play log:
- Luis Rengifo walked;
- Gio Urshela singled, Rengifo advanced to second;
- Logan O'Hoppe doubled, Rengifo scored and Urshela advanced to third;
- Taylor Ward singled, Urshela scored and O'Hoppe advanced to third;
- Trout walked;
- Ohtani singled, O'Hoppe scored;
- Anthony Rendon hit a sacrifice fly;
- Hunter Renfroe walked;
- Jake Lamb singled, Ohtani and Trout scored and Renfroe advanced to third on an error.
At that point, Fujinami was replaced by righty Adam Oller. The conditions did not improve for the Athletics, however, and the Angels would end up plating 11 runs before their turn to bat in the third inning was over.
Shintaro Fujinami, Wicked Splitters. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/WhhG4ceOor— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 1, 2023
Overall, Fujinami finished his day having surrendered eight runs on five hits and three walks over 2 1/3 innings. He did strike out four batters and he showed some legitimate power stuff. His fastball averaged 98 mph, and he generated 13 swinging strikes, with six of those coming on his 93 mph splitter.
It wasn't all bad for Fujinami, in other words. He's certain to get more opportunities to prove he belongs in a big-league rotation. It is worth remembering, though, that evaluators felt he would best fit in the majors in a relief capacity. If a few more starts get away from him like Saturday's did, the A's may have no other choice but to shift gears.