Back in October the Yankees made a move signing left handed reliever Naoya Okamoto that went largely unnoticed. Okamoto has still been relatively unnoticed up to this point as he was not invited to the big league camp this spring training.
That doesn’t mean the 27-year-old lefty should be forgotten. Originally from Japan, Okamoto was signed out of the Mexican League at the end of last season. He throws around 93-94 mph and is expected to start in Double-A Trenton.
Nothing about him says that he’s a sure thing major leaguer and at his age he’s certainly no prospect. But he’s a lefty who has a little bit of zip to his fastball. If he can get lefties consistently then it is possible he could make a trip to the Bronx at some point this season. I say that because the Yankees already have one lefty out, Damaso Marte, and Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano are already dealing with minor injuries this spring.
It’s likely nothing serious with either of those pitchers at this point, but both scare me for different reasons. Logan scares me because he’s been mediocre for his entire career. He was strong in 2010, but when it comes to relievers, even the worst ones can put together strong seasons here and there. Hopefully last year was more of a sign of things to come than a sign of a guy getting lucky.
Feliciano scares me because of the way Mets manager Jerry Manuel abused him. Feliciano pitched in 86, 88, and 92 over the past three years respectively and Manuel was not afraid to use him on back-to-back, to-back days. At one point last season Feliciano was used in six consecutive games and also had stretches of four and five games at points last year. That kind of mileage certainly piles up and considering he will be turning 36 later on this season, that is one big red flag.
So Okamoto is an intriguing option that we may find out more about later in the season. First let’s keep an eye on him in Double-A because to make it here, he certainly has to make it in Trenton first.