CLEVELAND — The Cubs couldn’t find the right Japanese translation for “I am a badass.”
So Tsuyoshi Wada didn’t really know what he was saying in English when he began his postgame media session late Wednesday night. But the low-key lefty knew he did something right when he saw the American reporters at his locker immediately burst into laughter.
Wada is essentially at a point where he is pitching for his job. By throwing seven scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 17-0 win over the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field, he changed the conversation for at least one night.
Joe Maddon called it. The Cubs manager got a five-year, $25 million contract because he can communicate and connect with all different types of people.
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“I brought him into the office in Chicago and I sat him down,” Maddon said Thursday. “I just wanted to talk to him to get him to settle down — and actually get to know him better — and understand what’s going on.
“I told him: This next time out, you’re going to use your fastball. You’re going to pitch seven innings. And you’re going to win. And when you get done, I’m going to buy you a really nice bottle of wine.
“But when you talk to the press, I want you to tell them: I am a badass.”
Wada gave that money quote to the media with translator Nao Masamoto — the team’s video coordinator and Pacific liaison — standing by his side.
“As soon as I took him out of the game yesterday,” Maddon said, “I walked up to him and I said: Don’t forget what you’re going to tell the press tonight.
“And then he said: I am a badass. And then he wrote it down on a piece of paper. It was outstanding.”
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Wada came through with his first quality start in six attempts, scattering four hits while giving up two walks and notching six strikeouts. Trying to hold onto the fifth-starter spot, he cut his ERA down from 4.84 to 3.68.
“He’s a very humble, nice young man,” Maddon said. “You couldn’t be nicer than him. It’s impossible to be nicer than he is. And when he pitches, he’s a great guy. I wanted him to be less of a great guy when he pitches.
“Because his fastball is better than he thinks. We talked about it the other day — the effective velocity — and if he throws it in the right spot, it becomes a better pitch. And if you throw with conviction, it becomes a better pitch.”
Wada earned a $4 million guarantee by stepping into the rotation after last summer’s fire sale and going 4-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 13 starts.
As Maddon said: “The point I was just trying to get across was just be more aggressive, be more assertive: I’m a badass, you know?”
Imagine if Wada ever figures out what that means, a reporter said.
“Exactly,” Maddon said. “Then he can truly fulfill his prophecy here.”