Texas Rangers get first Spring Training look at Dodgers superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto

Yoshinobu Yamamoto was the biggest free agent signing this offseason outside of generational talent Shohei Ohtani. In his first outing as a MLB pitcher, he faced the defending champion Texas Rangers.

San Francisco Giants v Texas Rangers
San Francisco Giants v Texas Rangers / Norm Hall/GettyImages
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The defending World Series champions faced their toughest task so far from the mound this Spring Training on Wednesday, in new Los Angeles Dodger, Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Yamamoto signed with the Dodgers this offseason following a stellar 2023 season in Japan that saw him pitch to a 1.16 cumulative ERA. He also had a WHIP well below one and allowed only 28 walks in 171 innings pitched. While Adolis Garcia did not play and Corey Seager and Josh Jung are both out with injury, Yamamoto still battled a few of the Rangers best hitters.

In the first inning he faced All-MLB First Team and Silver Slugging second basemen Marcus Semien as well AL Rookie of the Year hopefuls Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford. Worth noting in the first inning was that all three players were able to barrel Yamamoto up and make solid contact. Semien would go on to strike out on Yamamoto's renowned fastball, but not before he hit a long and loud fly ball down the right field line that drifted out of play. Rookie phenom Evan Carter laced a line drive into center field on the very next pitch, showing that he was up to the challenge he faced. Fellow rookie Wyatt Langford came up next and made hard contact, hitting a hot shot grounder down the third base line that would unfortunately result in a double play to end the inning.

In the second inning, Yamamoto looked much more untouchable. Former Silver Slugger and current Gold Glove first basemen Nathaniel Lowe struck out on three straight pitches swinging. The put away pitch was a nasty splitter that fell off the table and made Lowe look silly. Gold Glove Catcher Jonah Heim came up next and he was able to make solid contact, hitting a deep fly out off Yamamoto for the second out on the first pitch of his at bat. When Leody Taveras came up as the third batter of the inning, fans basically saw a replay of Lowe's at bat to lead off the inning. Taveras swung at all three pitches and looked as lost as Lowe on the nasty splitter in the dirt that ultimately ended the inning the same way it began.

Based on his two innings of work, it is easy to see why Yamamoto was so highly touted this offseason. Despite being a smaller player in stature, he has an overpowering fastball that hitters clearly struggle to catch up to. His aforementioned splitter makes quality major league batters look like amateurs and overall he has great command. Yamamoto will provide a challenge for many major league hitters this season.

It was a great test for the Rangers to face such a high quality arm as Yamamoto, especially this early in spring training when it's rare to get many reps against the opposing teams best players. While the hitters in the second inning went down quickly and easily, the contact and swings from Semien, Carter, and Langford in the first were encouraging. This time of year, process matters as much as results and barreled balls with hard contact in February are generally a sign that a hitter is right on track for the regular season.

The Rangers will face the Brewers and Joe Ross today at Surprise Stadium. Ross has not pitched in the major leagues since 2021 and was signed to a one-year deal by the Brewers in December.

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