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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fighters' Wolfe impressed by team's pitching


Staff writer

Brian Wolfe knows good pitching when he sees it.

News photo
Steady performer: Brian Wolfe, who once teamed with reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay, has been a key part of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters' success this season. KYODO

Before the 30-year-old Hokkaido Nippon Ham righty came to Japan, he spent three seasons with Roy Halladay and the Toronto Blue Jays franchise.

Still, not even being around "Doc" Halladay could have prepared him to be in the midst of one of the most dominant runs by a pitching staff in NPB history.

Wolfe pitched six innings of the Fighters' 2-0 win over the Yomiuri Giants on Monday at Tokyo Dome, a win that gave Nippon Ham eight shutout victories in 10 games.

"Not an entire staff," Wolfe replied when asked if he had ever been around a group of pitchers as dialed in as the Fighters have been recently.

Wolfe, Masaru Takeda and ace Yu Darvish each won two games during that stretch, with Bobby Keppel picking up a win and Mitsuo Yoshikawa delivering a quality start, but not receiving a decision, in another shutout victory.

Most of those games were closed out by an equally fired-up bullpen, led by relievers Hirotoshi Masui, Ryo Sakakibara and closer Hisashi Takeda.

"I played in Toronto, so I was around Roy Halladay and those guys," Wolfe said. "There were individual pitchers who did that, but never a full team pitching like this.

"It feels good, especially throwing the way we (the starters) are. We're just giving the ball over to the bullpen, and they have been doing they're job all year."

Wolfe has been pitching at a high level himself for most of the season. Through eight starts, he's 6-1 with a 2.44 ERA.

Opponents are batting .213 against Wolfe, who has given up fly balls on just 24.6 percent of balls put in play against him. A big reason he has yet to allow a home run in his 48 innings on the mound.

"The big thing is, I'm keeping the ball down against the guys who can do a lot of damage," Wolfe said. "And I'm trying to limit them to ground balls when they're up."

His most recent start against the Giants was almost derailed when he began having trouble with the fingernail on the middle finger of his throwing hand. The trainers came out to have a look, but Wolfe sent them back to the dugout with a few words.

Then again, with the way the Fighters have been pitching, it's no wonder he wanted to stay on the mound.

"I was throwing a spike curveball, so my fingernail kind of bent back a little bit," Wolfe said. "I think I threw one or two more the rest of the outing. I told them I could keep pitching. It only hurt throwing the curveball, so other than that it was OK."

Fitting, especially since everything's been fine with the rest of the Fighters' pitchers lately as well.

Pirates take Cole No. 1

AP

Secaucus, New Jersey — The Pittsburgh Pirates wanted Gerrit Cole's blazing fastball blowing away hitters for them.

In a draft dominated early by outstanding pitching prospects, the Pirates were convinced Cole was the best of the bunch and took the UCLA right-hander with the No. 1 pick Monday night.

Cole, a 193-cm, 100-kg junior, posted mediocre numbers this season for the Bruins (6-8, 3.31 ERA), but has what many consider to be the best pure stuff in the draft.

Cole's teammate on the UCLA staff, right-hander Trevor Bauer, wasn't far behind, going third overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks.



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