Aldergrove hurler Scott Mathieson seems to be enjoying the Japanese version of big-league life.
Mathieson, 28, put his Major League Baseball goals on hold last winter, asking the Philadelphia Phillies for his release so that he could sign a contract with Yomiuri Giants, one of the powerhouse teams in Japan.
The Giants are based in Tokyo and play out of the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome.
Mathieson, a right-hander with a blazing fastball, had signed on with the intent of being the Giants' closer, but they began the year with him in the starting rotation. He's since moved into a set-up role in the bullpen.
The Langley Blaze product has put up strong numbers for the Giants, sporting a 0.77 earned run average in 21 appearances as of Sunday. In that time, he's allowed just 15 hits in 23 and one-third innings, while striking out 28 and walking seven.
He's playing alongside former San Francisco Giants prospect John Bowker. They've had similar career paths; Mathieson had 26 saves in Triple A in 2010, but was 1-4 with a 6.75 ERA in 15 games over three years in the majors, while Bowker, 28, was a .314 hitter in 311 Triple A games and a .232 hitter in 240 big-league ones.
Q: First impressions of Japanese baseball? What makes it different from MLB?
A: The difference is atmosphere. Being a player or a fan you notice how much louder the crowds are here and it has a U.S. college football feel to it.
Japanese baseball has more bunting, stealing, and hitand-running than in the States. "Small ball" is a large part of the game here.
You began the year as a starter. What happened there and do you miss closing?
When I signed I did sign to be in the back end of the bullpen with the team. To my surprise, when I got here they had me starting, which I didn't mind as it gave me more of an opportunity to get used to Japanese baseball pitching multiple innings at a time, as opposed to just one. Once the regular season started, one of our main right-handed relievers got hurt, so I moved back to the bull-pen.
How have you adjusted to the language? The food? The culture?
Living in and playing in Tokyo has not been that different than living at home. There are western restaurants on every corner - TGI Friday's, McDonald's, Subway, Outback Steakhouse, etc.
And with Tokyo being such a large and international city, many people speak English, so it has not been too difficult for me. I do really enjoy how in the Japanese culture people have so much respect for everyone around them.
Did the Giants find you a place to live or did you have to do that once you arrived?
The Giants had everything set up for me. They put my wife and I up in a beautiful apartment on the 24th floor in a highrise in Toyko. It's in a convenient location, with access to anywhere we need to go from the subway station directly below our building.
The Giants have thought of everything - I had a cellphone waiting for me. They have been very accommodating to any needs I have had.
Did you know John Bowker before-hand? Is it easier with a guy there with a similar background?
I only knew Bowker from playing against him and I talked to him on the phone a few times before we arrived in Japan. He has been a great friend over here and it has definitely helped to have someone with a similar personality and experiences to talk to.