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Originally published April 11, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 20, 2007 at 9:08 PM

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M's Notebook | Johjima reveals secret of "gyroball"

The Mariners will get their first look tonight at the famous "gyroball" of Daisuke Matsuzaka...f such a pitch isn't mythology the...

Seattle Times staff reporter

BOSTON — The Mariners will get their first look tonight at the famous "gyroball" of Daisuke Matsuzaka — if such a pitch isn't mythology the likes of Big Foot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima seemed like a good person to ask about the gyroball, reputed to be a new-fangled pitch developed by a Japanese scientist, with spin and action unseen in the Western World.

Mariners five-game planner

Today | @ Boston, 4:05 p.m., FSN, ESPN2 | M's RHP Felix Hernandez (1-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-0, 1.29).

Thursday | @ Boston, 1:05 p.m., no TV | M's LHP Jarrod Washburn (0-0, 3.00) vs. RHP Tim Wakefield (0-1, 1.50).

Friday | vs. Texas, 7:05 p.m., FSN | M's RHP Miguel Batista (0-1, 15.43) vs. RHP Kevin Millwood (1-1, 4.91).

Saturday | vs. Texas, 12:55 p.m., Ch. 13 | M's LHP Horacio Ramirez (5-5, 4.48 in 2006) vs. RHP Vicente Padilla (0-2, 6.94).

Sunday | vs. Texas, 1:05 p.m., Ch. 11 | M's RHP Jeff Weaver (0-1, 31.50) vs. RHP Brandon McCarthy (1-1, 3.75).

As a member of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, Johjima faced Matsuzaka 118 times in Japan. He had 32 hits for a .271 average, with five homers and 11 runs batted in.

Johjima likened the gyroball to what is called a cut fastball in the major leagues, which would hardly make it a mystical new pitch. "If you want to call it gyro, call it gyro, but I see it as a cut fastball," Johjima said. "I think a lot of pitchers throw that pitch. ... It's hard to catch as a catcher, but also hard to hit."

In fact, Johjima said that Felix Hernandez, who will oppose Matsuzaka in what should stand up as one of the marquee matchups of the season, throws a similar pitch to Matsuzaka's so-called gyroball.

Asked what Felix's version of the gyro was, Johjima replied in English, "I call it a slider."

Hernandez didn't seem too interested in the subject.

"What's a gyroball?" he asked. "We'll see [today], I guess."

Mariners first baseman Richie Sexson, for one, was skeptical that a new pitch is on the horizon.

"You can't make up that many pitches, I wouldn't think," he said. "You've got five fingers and a baseball."

Media crush

The Mariners were bracing themselves for the full onslaught of Japanese media tonight, brought out by the convergence of Matsuzaka's Boston debut and the still-legendary Ichiro on the other side.

All four Japanese players in the series — Ichiro, Johjima, Matsuzaka, and Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima — greeted each other before the game. However, Johjima said he's trying not to get caught up in any hype.

"I don't want to be too much into what is happening right now," he said. "I want to stay calm so that I can focus on my own game."

Asked what he would tell a teammate if asked how to have success against Matsuzaka, Johjima replied, with a twinkle, "The first thing we all have to keep in mind is pray to God. That's what I do first. Do my best is the second thing."

Past becomes present

Ichiro, surrounded by a large media contingent after the game, was reluctant to discuss his past encounters with Matsuzaka, including the famous first meeting between the two in which Dice-K, then just 18, fanned him three times in 1999.

"I remember we were enemies," he said. "We weren't on the same team. I'm not going to tell you what I did learn, but as a player, to survive, you need to learn."

Ichiro wound up 8 for 34 (.235) against Matsuzaka, who has said that Ichiro is the major-league player he is most eager to face.

Asked if he was looking forward to facing Matsuzaka, Ichiro replied, "Of course. But as a batter, I play every day. Although I am looking forward to it, it's a little different than the perspective of the pitcher."

Felix not too fired up

Hernandez, coming off a brilliant effort against Oakland, denied that he was "pumped up" for the anticipated matchup.

"Pumped up? About what?" he asked. "It's just one more game. I just have to stay focused, like the first game."

One way he does that is by completely avoiding any media coverage.

"I don't read anything," he said. "I watch TV, but not sports. I watch movies."

Rhodes to DL

The Mariners have placed left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes on the disabled list with inflammation in his left elbow and recalled left-hander Jake Woods.

The move is retroactive to April 1. Rhodes, 37, has yet to appear in a game this season. He had been sidelined a week in spring training with elbow problems, and they returned on Sunday in Cleveland during a bullpen session, manager Mike Hargrove said.

For the record

W-L W PCT
2-2 .500

Streak: L2

Home: 2-1

Road: 0-1

vs. AL West: 2-1

vs. Anaheim: 0-0

vs. Oakland: 2-1

vs. Texas: 0-0

vs. AL East: 0-1

vs. AL Central: 0-0

vs. NL: 0-0

vs. LHP: 0-0

vs. RHP: 2-2

Day: 1-1

Night: 1-1

One-run: 0-0

Extra innings: 0-0

Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or lstone@seattletimes.com.

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