Dodgers News: Dave Roberts & Yoshinobu Yamamoto Challenging Each Other On Languages

Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers on the richest contract for a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball history. His track record of incredible play with the Orix Buffaloes is also a huge boost to future players in Nippon Professional Baseball looking to make the jump to MLB.

His storied career in NPB wrapped up with Yamamoto winning his third straight Eiji Sawamura Award, the equivalent of MLB’s Cy Young, with three Most Valuable Player Awards, as well.

At just 25 years old, Yamamoto joining the Dodgers pairs him with a franchise rich in ties to Japan, along with a manager in Dave Roberts who was born in Naha, Okinawa, Japan.

At Yamamoto’s press conference on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, Roberts expressed a great deal of optimism with how he’ll go about creating a solid line of communication with some minor language barriers.

“I do, I do,” Roberts said when asked if he knew any Japanese. “And I had a proposition earlier as far as he’s going to challenge me on my Japanese, I’m going to challenge him on his English, and we’re going to try to find a way to meet somewhere in the middle.

“So I’m not sure who is going to win out, but hopefully it’s right there, right smack in the middle. But yeah, we all need to brush up on our Japanese as well.”

Shohei Ohtani’s best friend, Ippei Mizuhara, is also his interpreter. Yamamoto’s agent Joel Wolfe said they’re still working to find that person for Yamamoto, but that the right-hander has already been working on his English.

“But he has actually been studying English,” Wolfe said. “And I think some people know, his sister is an English teacher. Since he’s been here on this trip, he’s been starting to speak in full English sentences and learning more and more and more. And he’s able to repeat things we say in English. I would give him a season, maybe two seasons, and I think we’ll have it”

Yamamoto’s continued work in making a strong effort to speak and understand English is a testament to himself, and he has surely benefited from the knowledge of his sister, who teaches in Japan.

His time with the Dodgers organization is just getting underway, but the opportunity to further the incredible line of pitchers who’ve played the early part of their careers in the NPB is important for the franchise.

What Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s signing means to Dodgers history

Yamamoto mentioned his exuberance to join a franchise as storied as the Dodgers while having the opportunity to wear the No. 18.

Hideo Nomo made his debut with the Dodgers in 1995, winning Rookie of the Year after posting a 2.54 ERA in 28 starts while striking out 236 batters. He was the first Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball.

Kazuhisa Ishii signed prior to the 2002 season on a four-year, $12.3 million deal after 10 years in NPB, finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting. Takashi Saito was a terrific reliever during his time with the Dodgers, posting a 1.95 ERA with 81 saves in three seasons.

Hiroki Kuroda signed in 2008, and being 33 at the time, he had already logged 11 seasons in NPB with the Hiroshima Carp. Also wearing No. 18, the right-hander spent four years with the Dodgers, posting a 3.45 ERA through the 2011 season.

Ohtani is the most recent big name born in Japan, also having played five seasons in NPB starting at age 18.

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