SARASOTA, Fla. — Travis Ishikawa doesn’t remember getting hit square in the right cheek, only the glance of a fastball speeding at his head, then waking up on the ground thinking his jaw was shattered.
“I have to say it was the best hit by pitch of my life,” Ishikawa said. “It changed my life. It went from the worst thing in the world to the best thing in the world.”
Ishikawa, a 29-year-old first baseman whom the Orioles signed to a minor league contract this offseason, was a San Francisco Giants farmhand back then. The night before, he learned he was being promoted from the low Class-A Hagerstown Suns across the country to play in high Class-A San Jose.
He arrived in California in time to play that night. His baseball bag made the flight, his personal bag didn’t.
Ishikawa wanted to make an impression. He was working on keeping his front shoulder in against inside pitching. In an eighth-inning at-bat, he stayed in the box too long and took the fastball to his face.
He didn’t know then that it would lead to him meeting his future wife, Rochelle.
The next morning, the team trainer suggested Ishikawa see a dentist to make sure nothing was structurally wrong. He went and immediately took notice of the dental assistant, but he was too shy to strike up conversation.
“She wasn’t even supposed to be in that day,” Ishikawa said. “She has come in to help out. I saw her and saw how beautiful she was. I couldn’t eve make eye contact with her. I was too scared to talk to her. I didn’t say anything to her that day. My bag still wasn’t there, so I was wearing the same clothes I flew in with, so I smelled. Two weeks later they wanted me to come in for a check-up, that’s when I started talking to her a bit and it went from there.”
The couple married in 2007 and has three children. So Ishikawa knows first hand about the value of being in the right place at the right time. And now he believes he’s in an ideal spot in the Orioles’ spring training camp.
The Orioles have anointed Chris Davis to take over at first base for the departed Mark Reynolds, but executive vice president Dan Duquette likes Ishikawa’s defense at first, making him a candidate for a bench role. Duquette has said that he tried to sign Ishikawa last offseason before he instead signed with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ishikawa owns a career .995 fielding percentage as a first baseman, but his chances of making the team this spring will hinge on his ability to play the outfield. He played just 3 2/3 innings in the outfield last year, but he played 34 games there in 2011 in Triple-A.
“That would be an added feather in his hat,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s had a little experience out there, but I want him to get his feet on the ground and get started. I don’t want to categorize somebody as a ‘What if?’ but he provides some depth and he’s a guy who have some experience on some pretty good teams. He was coveted in the offseason.”
Ishikawa is eager to show the Orioles that he can be versatile.
“I know I can do it,” he said. “I just need a little bit of…
The Orioles have signed 29-year old lefty swinging 1B Travis Ishikawa. Ishikawa played in 94 games for the Milwaukee Brewers last year and he was 39 of 152 (.257 avg, .757 OPS) with 19 runs scored, 4 homers and 30 RBIs. He has now played in 375 games in his first five years in the majors and he is 199 of 755 (.264 avg, .733 OPS) with 99 runs scored, 19 homers, 110 RBIs and 3 stolen bases. Ishikawa will get a shot to win a bench job for the Orioles next spring.
Pinch-hitters Travis Ishikawa and Norichika Aoki came through in big ways for the Brewers. Ishikawa’s two-out, two-run single in the sixth tied the game, 5-5. Aoki’s safety squeeze in the eighth snapped that tie and put the Brewers on top, 6-5.
Brewers skipper Ron Roenicke has been flexible with his lineup ever since Mat Gamel tore the ACL in his right knee. Taylor Green and Travis Ishikawa, the other options to replace Gamel at first, both swing the lumber from the left side. The Brew Crew sees them as nothing more than platoon pieces, though, and rightfully so. As a result, Corey Hart will be shifted to first base on occasion.
Milwaukee would prefer not to shuffle Hart frequently between first and the outfield, but the hot hitting of Norichika Aoki has been forcing Roenicke’s hand. The left-handed-hitting Japanese import continues to impress in May (.294/.368/.431) and is hitting .394 in his last 13 games.
The fact that Aoki, 30, is succeeding against southpaws to a clip of .310 in 29 at-bats really helps his case for regular duty, possibly relegating Carlos Gomez and Nyjer Morgan to platoon duty in center field. As long as Aoki continues to produce, Roenicke is fine with leaving Hart at first base – if it’s helping the O.
Aoki sported a .340 career average in his seven-year Japanese career, which included three batting titles. He clearly knows how to handle the stick, and he displayed double-digit home run and stolen base capacity overseas. While the power and speed numbers haven’t shown up – they may if he gets comfy playing every day – his batting average contributions won’t go unnoticed for too much longer in deep mixers. -Keith Hernandez
The Nationals placed right-hander Ryan Mattheus (plantar fasciitis) on the 15-day disabled list and activated Chien-Ming Wang, who’ll be a long reliever. It’s not the role in which he and fantasy owners envisioned, but he may draw a start — or six — before 2012 ends.
Wang, 32, was doing some encouraging work in spring training before he incurred a severely strained hamstring. He was solid in his first few minor league rehab starts too, but in his last couple, he left something to be desired – perhaps because he knew the Nats didn’t need him. The Taiwanese right-hander wrapped up his farm work with a 3.52 ERA, 33 hits allowed, six walks and 18 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.
Wang was working his way back into form; he steadily improved his ratio of ground-outs to air-outs and by his last start was in peak shape. The sinker-baller may never rediscover the ability that helped him win 19 games with the Yankees in both 2006 and 2007, but he’s as close as he’s been in four years. Wang’s surgically repaired shoulder has given him no problems.
The inclusion of 28-year-old Travis Ishikawa on the Milwaukee Brewers’ Opening Day roster surprised some as the team headed into the 2012 season, but his addition to the organization and the decision to break camp with him made sense.
He’s a slick a glove man at first base, with a .995 career fielding percentage. He is also experienced coming off the bench, is left-handed and has a bit of pop, having hit as many as 22 homers in a season in the minors.
His role has become more pronounced of late however, with the season-ending injury to first base starter Mat Gamel.
Ishikawa took some time to speak to OnMilwaukee.com about the challenges a new player faces in moving to a new city, his impressions of Milwaukee, the Brewers and the seemingly ever-changing role within the team.
OnMilwaukee.com: You signed here as a free agent from San Francisco – can you talk about what a ballplayer goes through in getting himself adjusted to a new city?
Travis Ishikawa: I got spoiled, living in the Bay Area so I was actually living at home (in Danville, Calif.) and going to the field every day so this is not
New York – Milwaukee Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has been looking for somebody on his bench to step up and make enough impact on a sputtering offense to warrant regular playing time.
Breaking through with the biggest offensive night of his career, Travis Ishikawa belted two home runs and drove in five runs Tuesday night to propel the Brewers to an 8-0 victory over the New York Mets at Citi Field.
With first baseman Mat Gamel lost for the season with a knee injury, Roenicke has been rotating three players at that position – Ishikawa, Taylor Green and Brooks Conrad. In his 10th start of the season there, Ishikawa staked a firm claim on increased playing time.
“I’ve been trying to make that statement ever since ‘Gam’ went down,” said Ishikawa, whose home run and RBI totals were career highs. “All I can do is when I’m in there, try to do my best and have quality at-bats. ”It’s our job to be ready to go in those situations. I’ve been kind of dealing with that my whole career. I’ve been a guy who has to always be ready to go.”
Whatever it takes:Travis Ishikawa has played in 281 major-league games, all at first base. But, to make the Brewers’ roster, he’s probably going to have to show he can also play the outfield, a position he began playing seriously only last year in the minor leagues.
“I tell everybody I don’t think I’m going to win any Gold Gloves out there,” Ishikawa said. “But I definitely feel like I can make all the plays I need to make to help the club win.” Ishikawa’s chances probably weren’t as good until Corey Hart needed right-knee surgery earlier in the week. With Hart not assured to be ready by April 6, the Brewers need help in the outfield as well as behind Mat Gamel at first.
Ishikawa is a considered a plus-defender at first. He’s expected to receive opportunities over the next few weeks in the outfield as he looks to build on the 34 games he split in left and right field with Class AAA Fresno last year.
“I started doing outfield stuff the last couple years because it was becoming apparent I wasn’t going to be the everyday first baseman in San Francisco,” said Ishikawa. “I wanted to give myself the best possible chance to help the team. The more positions you can play, it can only help the club and increase your chances of getting on the field.”
First baseman Travis Ishikawa will be with a new organization for the first time in his professional baseball career next season.
After spending nine seasons with the San Francisco Giants, the first baseman signed a minor league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday. Ishikawa was a Giants’ draft pick out of Federal Way in 2002 and was a key reserve on San Francisco’s World Series team back in 2010. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound left hander will attend the Major League spring training camp with the Brewers, but is not guaranteed a spot on Milwaukee’s 25-man roster.
Ishikawa is coming off shoulder surgery in June on his non-throwing arm. He suffered the injury while playing right field for the Fresno Grizzlies, the Giants’ AAA affiliate. Ishikawa was hitting .251 with three home runs, 18 RBIs and 14 doubles in 56 games for the Grizzlies before the shoulder injury. Ishikawa’s last game was June 12. He was designated for assignment by San Francisco following spring training last year after spending the previous two seasons and parts of two others, on the Giants’ Major League roster. After clearing waivers, Ishikawa was outrighted to Fresno. Ishikawa was hoping to sign with another Major League team after being cut from the Giants’ 40-man roster. But there wasn’t a lot of interest in the veteran first baseman before the 2011 season.
During San Francisco’s World Series season, Ishikawa hit .319 (15-for-47) as a pinch-hitter and was regarded highly enough to start Game 4 against the Texas Rangers. Ishikawa also drew a key walk in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against Atlanta that fueled a ninth-inning rally. During the entire 2010 postseason, he played in a total of 10 games and finished 2 for 10 at the plate with two runs, a double and an RBI during the playoffs.
The 28-year-old Ishikawa appeared in 116 games in 2010 for the Giants during the regular season when he hit .266 in 128 at-bats with 42 hits, 11 doubles, three home runs and 22 RBIs. Ishikawa spent a bulk of the 2009 season as San Francisco’s everyday first baseman after an impressive spring training. In 2009, Ishikawa hit .261 with nine home runs and 39 RBIs in 120 regular season games. He also spent time with the Giants during the 2006 and ’08 seasons. Travis Ishikawa has a lifetime batting average of .265 with 15 home runs, 80 RBIs, 30 doubles in 603 at-bats during his four-year Major League career. Ishikawa was a 21st round draft choice by the Giants out of Federal Way in 2002. But he wasn’t the normal 21st rounder. The Giants dished out $955,000 to sign the first baseman. It was the highest bonus awarded for a player drafted after the first round at the time.