PHOENIX (AP) - Takashi Saito stood on the mound at Maryvale Baseball Park on Sunday and thought of his family in Japan.
Saito pitched the first inning of the Milwaukee Brewers' 7-5 win over the Kansas City Royals, giving up two runs on four hits while striking out two. He said it was difficult to get into a good rhythm.
The Brewers had given him some time off to check on his family in Miyagi City, but he returned to the club on Sunday.
``I have gotten more information about what's going on, and I am in a better place (emotionally),' Saito said through an interpreter.
The 41-year-old Saito's wife and three daughters were OK in his current home in Yokohama, but the whereabouts of other family members were initially uncertain.
It turned out his mother and father were safe, too. They stayed with his brother. There were rumors that his boyhood home had been severely damaged, but that could not be confirmed. He worried about friends such as one of his high school baseball teammates and his family. As of midday Sunday, they were still unaccounted for.
``We haven't given up hope yet,' Saito said.
Compared to the past few days, Saito said he was able to sleep on Saturday night. He will sleep even better when his wife and daughters arrive in the United States on March 19.
He said his family ``has a strong will to recover from the damage. They told me not to worry.'
Saito's teammates and the coaching staff have been very supportive. As he talked to manager Ron Roenicke before the game, first baseman Prince Fielder came over and embraced him.
After his outing, Saito said he threw some quality pitches. He hopes to establish better communication with his teammates.
He said he would prefer not to be a starter. He has not started in the major leagues, although he did start in Japan. Saito was 2-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 56 games for Atlanta in 2010 before signing as a free agent with the Brewers over the winter.
Roenicke said he likely will give Saito two days off, then pitch him every other day after that.
``We're just happy to have him out here,' Roenicke said. ``If you think about it, you really have no idea what he's going through.'
Carlos Gomez hit a two-run homer to highlight a four-run second inning for the Brewers.
Gomez had a double to go with his second home run of the spring and is hitting .364 as he battles for a reserve outfield spot.
``Some of our other younger guys have been swinging the bat well, too.'
Shortstop Alcides Escobar, who was acquired by the Royals when they sent pitcher Zack Greinke to Milwaukee, hit an inside-the-park homer in the second.
NOTES: The Brewers optioned RHP Amaury Rivas to Triple-A Nashville and LHP Dan Merklinger and RHP Cody Scarpetta to Double-A Huntsville, Ala., RHP Robert Hinton, RHP Roque Mercedes and C Anderson De La Rosa were sent to minor league camp for reassignment. ... SS Yuneisky Betancourt was removed from the game with a strained quadriceps and is day to day. ... The Royals have an off day on Monday. ... INF Mike Aviles had two hits for the Royals on Sunday, his 30th birthday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved