Tazawa impresses with forkball in debut

Tazawa impresses with forkball in debut

JUPITER, Fla. -- The walk was the sticking point on Sunday for Junichi Tazawa, but the telling pitch for the Marlins' right-hander against the Cardinals was his forkball. Twice the 30-year-old executed the pitch for strikeouts in a scoreless third inning of Sunday's 7-4 loss at Roger Dean Stadium.

Tazawa was a significant free-agent signing for the Marlins, and the veteran adds depth in the late innings. His forkball also offers a different look to hitters.

In his lone inning, Tazawa struck out Randal Grichuk looking with a forkball, and he got Todd Cunningham swinging through the pitch for strike three. He did issue a two-out walk to Tommy Pham.

"I'm definitely still working on it," Tazawa said through his interpreter. "It was working today, but it's something I have to work on a lot."

The Marlins signed Tazawa to a two-year, $12 million deal after being with the Red Sox since 2009.

In 2016, opponents hit .210 off Tazawa's forkball, according to Baseball Savant. The right-hander threw the pitch 211 times, inducing 53 swings and misses.

To get immediate results with his most effective pitch was encouraging.

"I was a bit nervous about the new team," Tazawa said. "But aside from the walk, it was pretty good."

Mattingly on pitchers

The Marlins have compiled a bullpen that offers a variety of styles. Their two prime free-agent relievers are Tazawa and Brad Ziegler, who has a submarine-style delivery. They join a back end of the bullpen that includes closer A.J. Ramos, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps and Dustin McGowan.

"I'd say the bullpen would be our biggest depth area in the organization," manager Don Mattingly said, "where you're looking at guys coming that you think have a chance to become legitimate, quality big league arms. Possibly, seventh-, eighth- and ninth-innings guys. I would say that is the strength of our organization right now."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.