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  #1  
Old Feb 12th 2009, 5:20 am
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Fukudome shapes up in offseason

Fukudome shapes up in offseason
Cubs staff member encouraged by outfielder's progress

By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs won't see Kosuke Fukudome until sometime in March because the outfielder is committed to playing for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic. But the early scouting report is that he will arrive better prepared for the Major Leagues.

Nao Masamoto, the video coordinator for the Cubs, visited Fukudome twice this offseason, once in early December and again in January, to check on his workout program. Masamoto's prediction for the Japanese outfielder in 2009?

"I don't think he'll be as good [for the whole season] as what he did last April," Masamoto said Wednesday of Fukudome, "but, overall, he'll do fine and better than what he did last year for sure. There's no doubt in my mind."

Last year, Fukudome had a dream-like Opening Day. On March 31 at Wrigley Field, he went 3-for-3 against the Milwaukee Brewers, including a ninth-inning, game-tying three-run homer off Eric Gagne. The right fielder batted .327 in the first month, but Fukudome's average dipped each month, and he finished the season at .257 with 10 homers and 58 RBIs.

Before Fukudome returned to Japan, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry met with him and told him the team would be looking for another outfielder for 2009 and that the nine-year Japan League veteran would be competing for playing time.

Masamoto said he didn't sense Fukudome, 31, was frustrated by what happened in his first season in the U.S.

"He said he kind of knew it was going to happen before he came to the States," Masamoto said. "He knows what needs to be done and he knows what we have as far as the [batting] cage and the gym, and he knows what the other players do."

During the season, Fukudome would try to get his work in with his teammates, but ended up in hitting groups of five or six, which meant taking his swings, then having to wait 15 minutes before his next round. Now, Masamoto said Fukudome knows the Cubs coaches can set aside more one-on-one time if needed.

"He just needs to come up and say, 'Hey, I need to hit more,'" Masamoto said.

Part of the problem could have been that Fukudome was trying to fit in with his new team and didn't know what he could ask for.

"Being a first-year guy, he didn't say, 'Hey, I need this,'" Masamoto said. "He probably wanted to see what was going on first."

In his second season in the U.S., Fukudome will have a better feel for Wrigley Field, for the road ballparks, for the travel, for day games. Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Fukudome may have worn down at the end of last season. In 2007, he was limited to 81 games with the Chunichi Dragons before undergoing elbow surgery.

"That might be one of the reasons [he struggled]," Masamoto said. "It's all combined. He had the injuries, it's a new place, it's Chicago, he doesn't have as many friends as he had in Japan. It's all combined. He knows the situation this year. I'm not worried about him."

During Masamoto's visits, there was no talk about the Cubs' addition of Milton Bradley, who was expected to get most of the playing time in right with Fukudome sliding over to center to share time with Reed Johnson. Masamoto's mission was to make sure Fukudome was following the Cubs' workout regimen, which focused on adding more core exercises. Masamoto said he saw a definite improvement in the month between visits.

"He was doing great -- it was awesome," Masamoto said. "He was better [in January] than what I saw in December. It seems like the message got through to him."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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Old Feb 12th 2009, 7:24 am
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Let's see how he does against major league pitching , I have my doubts. If he can stay with the inside pitches and not run away he will be fine but , I think they have figured out he is afraid. I really think the league has his number.
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Old Feb 12th 2009, 1:16 pm
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lets hope not. otherwise we have a 40M defensive replacement
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Old Feb 13th 2009, 2:10 pm
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It was a complete culture shock last season for him, i don't think the pitchers have his number, i just think he wore down, physically and mentally. This season he knows the ropes, he knows what to expect. I fully expect to see more of the first half Fukudome this season rather than the late season Fukudome.
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Old Feb 16th 2009, 9:36 pm
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I agree w/LeeEila that he needs to hang in the batters box. If he does that and adjusts through the season he'll be ok
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Old Feb 16th 2009, 9:47 pm
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Originally Posted by cubbie_kern View Post
I agree w/LeeEila that he needs to hang in the batters box. If he does that and adjusts through the season he'll be ok
If they only knew how easy that would be to fix! Place 4 bats behind him and when he busted his *** a few times he would get the point!
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Old Feb 17th 2009, 6:35 am
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lol!!!!!!!
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