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[ODDS and EVENS] Yusei Kikuchi Enjoying the Best Start of His MLB Career

Blue Jays lefty Yusei Kikuchi made adjustments during the offseason, had a strong spring training and has continued to pitch well since the MLB season started.

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Yusei Kikuchi
Toronto Blue Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi pitches against the Boston Red Sox on May 2 at Fenway Park. (AP/via KYODO)

Read the full story on SportsLook - [ODDS and EVENS] Yusei Kikuchi Enjoying the Best Start of His MLB Career

Entering the 2023 MLB season, Yusei Kikuchi owned a 21-31 career record as an MLB pitcher.

Kikuchi spent his first three MLB seasons with the Seattle Mariners before signing a three-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2022 campaign.

With a 4-7 record and a 5.25 ERA as a starting pitcher in mid-August last year, Kikuchi was removed from the starting rotation. He spent the rest of the season as a reliever, pitching 12 more times out of the bullpen.

While his Samurai Japan compatriots were grabbing headlines and capturing the world's attention en route to the World Baseball Classic title, Kikuchi was having a sparkling spring training for the Blue Jays in the Grapefruit League. The 31-year-old native of Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, made six starts in spring training and limited foes to nine hits in 18 innings. He struck out 25 batters, walked 10 and allowed just two runs, compiling a 2-1 record with a 1.00 ERA.

Not surprisingly, Kikuchi regained a spot in Toronto's starting rotation for the regular season. And since the regular season began on March 30, Kikuchi has been one of Major League Baseball's premier starting pitchers. Through games of Wednesday, May 10, Kikuchi is one of four MLB starters with five wins. Shane McClanahan of the Tampa Bay Rays is the MLB leader with seven victories.

Yusei Kikuchi
Yusei Kikuchi is in his fifth MLB season. He joined the Blue Jays in 2022. (AP/via KYODO)

An Excellent Start to the Season for Kikuchi

Kikuchi is 5-0 in seven starts with eight walks and 33 strikeouts in 37⅔ innings. He's not allowing a bunch of runs (14 total), and a big part of that is because Kikuchi has improved his pitching control.

What's more, he's allowing 1.9 walks per nine innings, the lowest season total of his MLB career. Kikuchi walked three or more batters in 11 of his 20 starts last season, prolonging scoring opportunities for opposing teams on many occasions.

In a February interview with Sportsnet, a Canadian sports broadcaster, Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said he had high hopes for Kikuchi in 2023. But Walker also made it clear what he'd outlined as key objectives for Kikuchi at spring training and the season to come.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.

Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and Twitter @ed_odeven