There have been three pitchers born in the state of Hawaii who played in the Marlins organization. One was a massive bust—Justin Wayne, first-rounder from the 2000 draft. Another was Charlie Hough, who threw the first pitch in Marlins team history. The third is who we’re here to talk about today.
Jordan Yamamoto is a fairly recent addition to the Marlins farm system after being traded from the Milwaukee Brewers in the Christian Yelich trade. He arrived along with Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz and Monte Harrison as one of my colleagues covered in Yamamoto’s profile back in January.
Starting the 2018 season on the disabled list, he was behind the eight ball a little bit, joining the Jupiter Hammerheads rotation in late May. If there were any doubts about how he would look against new lineups, he put them to bed in his first start. Yamamoto went 5 innings while recording 5 strikeouts and allowing just one run on three hits in a win against Bradenton.
It was off to the races from there. In 7 starts for the Hammerheads, he strung together some absolutely foolish numbers:
Jordan Yamamoto's peripherals are off the charts: 40.2 IP, 0 HR, 8 BB, 47 K. And he already pitched at High-A last season.— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 2, 2018
Move him up! pic.twitter.com/fRUXkutJDP
Right on cue, the Marlins promoted Yamamoto to the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. Unfortunately, after just two starts at this higher level of competition, he landed on the 7-day disabled list on July 14.
Yamamoto has returned to Jupiter to rehab and remains in good spirits despite the setback. I was able to steal some of his time Friday to learn more about his career, specifically his Marlins time, and maybe venture into off-topic stuff a little bit.
Of course, I have to ask about growing up playing baseball in Hawaii. With no pro teams within a couple thousand miles, Who was your favorite team and idols growing up?
I started off liking the Red Sox. I watched the 2007 World Series team a lot. With players like Jason Varitek, I guess you could say I had the most idols on that team.
Back in 2014, I was covering the Brewers and I remember thinking how awesome it was that you and Kodi Medeiros (White Sox prospect and Hawaiian native) were drafted together. Did that make the transition any easier?
Just a little bit. Just knowing there was another Hawaii guy on the team. It was nice that we were roommates through instructionals and AZL ball, so having food from home and just the comforting from home made the transition that much easier.
Speaking on transitions, your first stop after AZL ball was Helena, Montana pitching for the rookie league Brewers. How was adapting to cold weather pitching?
That year actually wasn’t too bad ‘cause I started in June. Mostly 60-degree weather, but the following season in Wisconsin was way colder. Actually having to pitch in the snow at some point. Even that though wasn’t too bad. I actually think the biggest transition was the elevation change from Arizona to Helena.
It seems like whatever changes you have made since then have paid off, posting an ERA of 2.61 in 55 starts since rookie ball. What has been the most helpful thing you have been taught the past few seasons?
Just being able to pitch. The Helena season, I was more of a thrower. Always trying to throw hard when I’m really not a hard thrower. I thought I could just blow past guys when in reality that’s not my game. The next season I told myself I just need to pitch. I need to hit spots, that’s just who I am. Hit the corners, throw strikes with my offspeed in any count, and that’s just what I did. Offspeed early and late, fastball early and late. It seemed to help me really become a pitcher not a thrower.
The results are definitely clear my friend. I’ll fast forward a bit here. It’s January of this year, and you’ve just been traded to the Miami Marlins. What’s your instant reaction?
As I’ve told everybody: this is a business. I just have to do what they say and I mean it’s for the better. There’s it’s ups and downs, I do miss some of the guys from the Brewers but I was able to see some of them when Biloxi came to Jacksonville, which was awesome. For the most part though, it’s a business. It’s about me moving up in my career and who wants me more then the other. It’s about making the most with what God has given me.
Starting the year on the DL is never fun, but you come out in late May for Jupiter looking the best of your career. Anything new you did in Spring Training?
It was just a matter of me getting stronger. That was pretty much the extent of the injury. Being weaker in certain areas, and just needing to be stronger in those areas. I did, and came back. That’s really it.
After posting 2 dominant starts against a quality Florida Fire Frogs lineup, you get the call to head to Jacksonville. How was that?
It was pretty cool. It was my first time getting the call to Double-A ever. So it was kinda a cool experience, definitely not something I’m used too. Not used to the long drives though, the longest drive in the Florida State League would be 3 hours. My first road trip for Jacksonville was 36 hours. It was so cool going from 200-300 fans a night to 8,000-10,000 fans. It was a great atmosphere to go out and have fun.
That actually leads me to into my next question. The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville is quite a hype atmosphere, how much fun has it been pitching for the fans up there?
It’s honestly a blast. I’ve never pitched in front of that many fans before. So the game I got to pitch in Jacksonville this year happened to be against Biloxi and there was probably over 10,000 fans. It was a fun game, an adrenaline rush to pitch in front of all them screaming.
After your last start though, you were put on the 7-day disabled list, but I can’t seem to find out why. Would you care to elaborate? And will we be seeing you back in the rotation soon?
I’m not really here to elaborate, but I have started my throwing program already. I’m getting back into it slowly, so it’s just a process. It is what it is to me, life happens and you just gotta work with what you got. Like I said, I’ve began throwing again, so I should be...I’m hoping to be back by the end of the season.
With so much growth the first half of the year, what are some of your goals the second half of the year and into the offseason?
Just really try to be healthy going into the offseason, and just go through workouts without any injuries. Just come back to Spring Training just ready for the following year. Not have anything holding me back and just go compete every single day.
I’m sure that’s exactly what every Marlins fan wants to hear. I just have one more question for you and getting away from baseball a little bit. I know you’re into diving, Have you had a chance to make it down to the Florida Keys at all? I know it’s not Hawaii, but they do have some great reefs and wrecks.
Ah, no. The most I’ve seen the ocean is the beach. If I’m not back home, then I really don’t know the water or the areas. I wouldn’t wanna get myself into trouble. Back home I’m always with my Dad, so I just left all of my stuff with him.
Marlins fans, you have an absolute dog here—a young man who’s blowing through any obstacles in his way, and I don’t see that stopping now.
I just want to thank Jordan for taking the time to talk to me while working to get healthy. Minor setback for a major come-up.