Let’s the hope we see more of the April 2008 Kosuke Fukodome during the 2009 MLB season than we do the September 2008 Kosuke Fukodome. In Fukodome’s 1st season in the big leagues, Fukodome had a dream month of April. He hit .327 over the course of the month, going 3 for 3 on opening day with a 3-run home run in the bottom of the 9th inning off closer Greg Gagne that tied the game at 3. But each month, teams seemed to figure Kosuke out, and as the season wore on, Kosuke had fewer and fewer quality, patient at-bats. The lack of patience showed in the batting average – he finished the season with a .257 batting average, with only 10 home runs and 58 RBI’s.
Cubs GM Jim Hendry told Kosuke that he would have to compete for a starting outfield spot during Spring Training in 2009. Kosuke was fine with that assessment from all accounts, and has fully committed to the Cubs recommended off-season workout. The workout regimen included exercises that focused on strengthening Fukodome’s core. Cubs video coordinator Nao Masamoto has visited Fukodome in Japan twice this off-season and has been impressed with his improvement in the month between the 2 visits (one in December and one in January). While Masamoto didn’t predict that Fukodome would be able to keep up that April 2008 pace for all 6 months of the 2009 MLB season, he believed that Fukodome would be able to better manage the lows than he did in his first year.
Masamoto also feels that with one year under his belt, Fukodome will be much more at ease in his new major league environment. If he needs more batting practice, he won’t hesitate to ask for the time. Being more familiar with Wrigley Field, the other National League parks and more day games in Chicago should also help.
We don’t need a .327 Fukodome all season long, but if he could really make pitchers work counts like he did at the beginning of the season, that would be a huge improvement. Even if he got back into the high .200′s, that would be a huge step in the right direction, and a good sign that Fukodome could be back in store for an outstanding 2009.