Kevin Mench’s NPB career isn’t off to a great start — through three games he’s 0-11 with three strikeouts and eight flyouts. This comes after a bad spring as well. The typically hyperbolic and alarmist press corps that follows Hanshin is already questioning his future with the Tigers. One article even dragged out the name Mike Greenwell the veteran MLB slugger who played seven games for the Tigers before God told him to retire. I don’t think that’s quite fair; I’d be stunned if Mench pulled that kind of stunt. And George Arias got off to a poor start with the Tigers and wound up being a good player for them. Then again, Arias had already established himself in Japan.
Despite the media, Mench will get a little more time to prove himself in Japan. The Tigers have flown in US-based scout and former Tiger Tom O’Malley to work with Mench, and will keep him around for a month. Hanshin’s owner seems to be behind him too, saying “if he hits just one big blast he’ll be hard to pitch to. He’s hit 89 home runs in the majors so I want him to start hitting soon”.
Still, this gives you an idea of the expectations and pressure on an MLB import joining a popular franchise in Japan. Foreign players tend to be on short leashes, particularly high-salaried ones.