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How Yoshi Tsutsugo’s first day in Rays camp went

With photographers waiting in the parking lot, Japanese outfielder arrived, shook hands, worked out, started his transition.
New Tampa Bay Rays OF Yoshi Tsutsugo talking to media after first workout, with minor-league athletic trainer Tsutomu Kamiya translating. [MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
New Tampa Bay Rays OF Yoshi Tsutsugo talking to media after first workout, with minor-league athletic trainer Tsutomu Kamiya translating. [MARC TOPKIN | Tampa Bay Times]

PORT CHARLOTTE — Yoshi Tsutsugo’s arrival in Rays camp was a bit different than for most of their new players, given more than a dozen reporters and photographers, many representing Japanese outlets, staking out the parking lot for their first look.

"Always a lot of people,'' Tsutsugo said with a smile.

Getting the 28-year-old lefty slugger signed to a $12-million, two-year deal was hard work in December. Now the task is getting him transitioned to a new country, culture and language, as well as a different team, routine and level of competition.

“I don’t know if I could say what’s at the top of the list – a lot of it,’’ Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I certainly couldn’t put myself in his position, doing the transition he’s making.’’

Related: How Rays made their pitch to sign Tsutsugo

But the Rays are confident Tsutsugo (tsoo-TSOO-go) can handle all the challenges, and well.

“From what we know, his teammates are going to enjoy him,’’ Cash said. “He carried a presence in Japan, and I think he’ll do the same here once he gets acclimated. We’ve just got to afford him the ability to get acclimated.’’

To help, the Rays have hired three staffers – a translator, massage therapist and cultural liaison (who also throws lefthanded batting practice).

Tsutsugo said what you’d expect on the first day, that he felt good, was “very excited” to be here and looking forward to learning his way around.

There was a crowd awaiting Yoshi Tsutsugo's arrival at Rays camp on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020. [MARC TOPKIN | Tampa Bay Times]

"A lot of new faces today so I just want to get to know them and be a good teammate,'' he said, with Rays minor-league athletic trainer Tsutomu Kamiya handling the translating until fulltimer Louis Chao arrives.

Tsutsugo said the biggest challenge will be adjusting to major-league pitching.

“There are a lot of differences but I think the main difference is the way the pitcher throws, a lot of different actions,'' Tsutsugo said. "I just want to slowly get used to things one day at a time. The velocity and the way the ball moves, that’s different here.”

Tsutsugo, who went through a light workout in the batting cage, said he wasn’t concerned where he played, and had been “practicing a lot” at third base and had “no issues’ there.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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