Hisanori Takahashi (Angels) vs. Hideki Matsui (A's) should be interesting AL West matchup
New reliever Hisanori Takahashi will probably be a little careful pitching to Oakland designated hitter Hideki Matsui this season. The 35-year-old left-hander, a former teammate of Matsui's in Japan, has faced Matsui eight times, all in exhibition games, with little success.
"He is five for eight against me with four home runs," Takahashi, who played for the New York Mets last season, said through his interpreter and personal trainer, Yoichi Terada, on Wednesday.
Manager Mike Scioscia didn't seem concerned.
"That's OK," he said. "He'll get another crack at him."
Takahashi knew little about the Angels when he signed a two-year, $8-million deal with them over the winter.
"I knew their uniform is red; they are the red team," he said. "And I knew Matsui-san was there. That's about it."
Takahashi tried calling Matsui several times last season, "but he didn't answer my phone," the pitcher said. "He has many numbers that he doesn't know."
When the Angels showed interest in him this winter, Takahashi tried to call Matsui, who spent the 2010 season with Anaheim. Again, Takahashi had no luck.
"I called him last night," Takahashi said, "and he didn't answer it."
The two should have plenty of time this season to get acquainted, seeing as they will be division rivals, with 19 games against each other.
Takahashi did not allow a home run to a left-handed hitter last season, which is one reason the Angels signed the versatile pitcher who filled a variety of roles for the Mets, from starter to middle relief to setup man to closer.
"He's going to pitch anywhere from the sixth to ninth inning, and he could be used as a spot starter," Scioscia said of Takahashi, who went 10-6 with a 3.61 earned-run average and eight saves last season, his first in the major leagues. "His versatility is real."
Takahashi threw a 10-minute bullpen session in camp Wednesday and, like most Japanese pitchers, he has an unorthodox delivery, with not one but two hitches, one when he brings his glove overhead and another during his leg kick.
But his fastball looked firm, and he mixes that with a curve, slider, cut-fastball, two-seam fastball and changeup. He might have a few more pitches up his sleeve; right-hander R.A. Dickey taught him how to throw a knuckleball with the Mets last season.
"I have some more pitches, but I can't tell [you what they are]," Takahashi said. "I try to keep the hitters off-balance with every pitch."
-- Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.
Photo: Hisanori Takahashi. Credit: Mark Duncan / Associated Press.