Fukudome enjoys strong week
Rookie outfielder picks up three hits in his first road game
PITTSBURGH -- Kosuke Fukudome is making it look easy.
In his first week in the Major Leagues, the Cubs outfielder is batting .458, and leads the team with a .581 on-base percentage. He has a .708 slugging percentage, one homer, three doubles and six RBIs, and added to his stats on Monday with a 3-for-5 effort in the Cubs' 10-8, 12-inning win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"Spring Training is a difficult thing to judge and you never know until the season starts, but we had a good idea he was going to make good contact and hit the ball, and he has," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
Fukudome was nominated for National League Player of the Week -- Pittsburgh's Xavier Nady hit three homers and drove in nine runs to win the award -- and is making a good impression.
"He's smart," Chicago's Aramis Ramirez said. "You should see him before the games -- he watches the pitchers. He's always asking his guy for the scouting report or how hard the pitchers throw. He's a smart guy. That's why he's been successful in his career and here in the states."
As of now, Fukudome is batting fifth in hopes of providing protection for Ramirez and to break up the Cubs' right-handed lineup. Piniella has mentioned he may move Fukudome up against left-handers.
"He's doing well in the fifth hole," Ramirez said. "I don't know if you want to move him right now. He's having a great start of the season there."
Getting three hits in his first road game is a nice beginning for Fukudome.
"I was hoping I could get off to a good start on the road," he said through interpreter Ryuji Araki.
His teammates definitely respect the way Fukudome approaches the game and how he plays.
"I appreciate that," he said. "I'm hoping I can keep playing the way I am right now so I keep their respect."
When he signed with the Cubs, there were questions about how long it would take for him to make the adjustment from Japan to the Major Leagues. Fukudome is making it look easy.
"It's not easy," he said.
He hasn't shown Cubs fans -- or opponents -- everything. This spring, Fukudome mentioned he was a work in progress.
"It's not everything yet," he said. "I still have a few more things I'm working on."
Are they secrets?
"They will be a secret for now," he said.
What about a 4-hour 47-minute, 12-inning game, which was Monday's marathon?
"It's maybe a little bit long," Fukudome said.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.