Aoki adjustment period underway

Japanese import Norichika Aoki’s Major League career began Saturday with the Brewers’ first full-squad workout, and manager Ron Roenicke figures there are plenty of adjustments ahead for the outfielder.

“I’m sure the workout here isn’t what he was used to in Japan,” Roenicke said Sunday morning. “He probably felt like he didn’t do much yesterday.”

Players in Japan train much more rigorously than their U.S. counterparts, a fact pitcher Frankie De La Cruz learned first-hand when he was Aoki’s teammate in 2010 with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

“Every day, we threw,” De La Cruz said. “Every day, 100 pitches. We were throwing all the time.”

Likewise, the hitters hit, and hit, and hit. On Saturday, after Brewers hitters took batting practice, Aoki stayed late to take an extra round of swings. He was on a similar schedule Sunday, and Roenicke said he would wait a couple of days to have a more formal conversation with Aoki about further adjustments the player deems necessary.

“The workout is different. In Japan, they believe that the more work you do, the better you’re going to be,” Roenicke said. “We feel a little different here. There needs to be a happy medium, mentally, for him, to feel like he’s doing enough work to get himself ready.”

Roenicke spoke of a similar adjustment by Japanese slugger Hideki Matsui, who was already in his eighth Major League season when he joined Roenicke’s Angels in 2010. By then, Matsui had cut back his regimen, which Roenicke attributed to experience in the U.S. and the fact Matsui was in his age 36 season.

Every player is different, Roenicke said.

“Tony Gwynn hit more than anybody I’ve ever seen hit, and he was also the best hitter I’ve ever seen hit,” Roenicke said. “It worked for him. I would have loved to hit as much as Tony, but every time I tried to work harder, I got fatigued, I would get in bad habits and all of a sudden I was not as good. Everybody has different physical needs, different mental needs.”

On a separate note, Roenicke said he had not spoken with GM Doug Melvin about a contract extension but is obviously interested. He’s entering the second season of a two-year deal that includes a club option for 2013.

“Obviously, I want to do this for a long time, and I really feel blessed at the position and the place I am in now,” Roenicke said. “I know it took a while for me to get the opportunity, but sometimes we want to push things to have them happen earlier than what they are meant to be. The timing was right last year, the place was right. It’s better than I don’t try to control things. There’s a bigger power that’s going to control my life that I need to let happen.”

Roenicke says he had a good feeling about the Brewers from his first interview with Melvin and special assistant Dan O’Brien.

Asked hoe he’s already evolved as a manager, Roenicke said, “We’ll see after a few more years.”

Other Sunday morning notes:

  • Left-hander Zach Braddock is scheduled to throw a bullpen today and it appears he’s over the stomach virus that slowed him last week.
  • The Brewers are doing first to third and second to home baserunning drills today, so coach Ed Sedar will get his first gauge of how second baseman Rickie Weeks is moving on that left ankle.
  • It’s also the first day of live batting practice, so hitters will get their first look at “real” pitching in months. Roenicke said he gave some of the veterans the option of skipping the exercise, or just standing in the batter’s box to track pitches. Among those scheduled to throw; power arms Zack Greinke and Wily Peralta, plus Randy Wolf, Chris Narveson and Marco Estrada. They’ll throw about 30 pitches apiece.

“It’s not a fun day for hitters, especially depending on who you’re facing,” Roenicke said.


Follow me on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy.

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