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Watanabe pitches and draws a crowd

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  February 13, 2014 01:00 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Pitchers throw in the bullpen every other day in spring training and most of time only a few coaches are paying attention. That changed on Thursday morning when Shunsuke Watanabe took the mound.

The righthander is in minor league camp with the Red Sox. But he's not a normal minor leaguer.

The 37-year-old was 87-82 with a 3.65 earned run average over 12 seasons with the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan and twice pitched in the World Baseball Classic. He also has perhaps the most unusual delivery in the game.

Watanabe pauses three times before dropping down and delivering the ball from just above the top of the mound. The ball travels to the plate moving up, something you almost never see.

Manager John Farrell, bullpen coach Dana Levangie, assistant general manager Mike Hazen and about a dozen players gathered to watch Watanabe throw to Ryan Lavarnway.

"He'll be tough to hit the first time somebody sees him," Lavarnway said. "It wasn't tough to catch because I knew what he was throwing. But the angle is completely different."

Watanabe throws a fastball and sinker with a breaking pitch that looks like a slider. He's working on a changeup.

His fastball didn't look like much but the sinker is a decent pitch. Watanabe was 0-4, 4.62 in six starts last season in Japan, so the Sox aren't expecting much.

Watanabe was guaranteed at least four appearances in spring training games, so he'll get a chance to see what that unusual delivery can do against major league hitters.

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