Kodai Senga gives teammates a look at signature ‘ghost fork’ during first live batting practice of spring
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Kodai Senga doesn’t quite know who started calling his forkball a “ghost fork” but he knows he heard the term about a decade ago. His signature pitch isn’t technically a splitter because he doesn’t fully grip it between two fingers, so he prefers to call it a forkball himself, but said fans can call it whatever they want.
The pitch itself has become the subject of baseball lore.
“I was throwing the forkball and the batters would say, ‘It disappeared! It disappeared,’” the former Nippon Professional Baseball League star said through a translator Sunday after the Mets wrapped up a spring training workout. “I just kind of heard it third person.”
The Mets finally got a look at it Sunday when their new right-hander threw live batting practice for the first time this spring Sunday at Clover Field. So what did it look like?
“I don’t know — that’s why it’s a ghost pitch,” Pete Alonso said.
He faced some of the Mets’ best hitters in Alonso, Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil. All three cited the “shape” of the forkball, saying it looks different than other split-finger pitches typically thrown in North America. The way it spins is different and it looks different coming out of his hand than most splitters do.
Senga reached the high 90s with his fastball and hit 98 MPH on a pitch to McNeil. He struck out Alonso swinging with the forkball.
“He got me on it,” Alonso said. “It’s an interesting pitch, for sure. We don’t really see that around here very often and it’s got the really cool nickname for a reason.”
The velocity was higher than expected, though it may not be the norm going forward. Manager Buck Showalter attributed it to Senga being a little overexcited, and the pitcher didn’t disagree. But the consensus is that his stuff will play at the Major League level.
“I’m happy he’s on my team and I don’t have to face him,” Lindor said.
Senga wasn’t happy with the results of his first bullpen session this week but was confident in his ability to make adjustments. He was still working through some command issues Sunday but showed improvements in location.
“I was super, super focused. I could tell I was concentrating and it was a lot of fun,” Senga said. “After the last bullpen, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to be ready to face hitters this soon. But after today, I feel really good and I feel ready to be in the game.”
Beyond the work on the mound, Senga is putting in work to get to know his team. His personality and penchant for humor have been obvious since his first press conference at Citi Field in December, and his new teammates are now getting to see it for themselves.
Even with the language barrier, he has quickly managed to endear himself to the clubhouse. The jokes about ghosts write themselves. The pitcher who throws the ghost ball is working on writing a few of his own, too.
“I feel like he’s starting to come out of his shell,” Lindor said. “It’s only the first couple days and there’s the language, but he’s good. He’s a good fit for us. I’m happy he’s here.”