Akiyama hit .301 with 20 home runs last season for Seibu in Japan. He started throughout his nine-year career in his home country.
“I’m not used to pinch hitting as much as I have been these past few games,” Akiyama said. “It’s a hard place where I can’t stay back in the cages too long. I’m not sure how much I should be using my time in the dugout or in the back when it’s a time I might not be used. I’m not too worried about how I’ve been preparing. I’m more worried about getting used to this.”
Akiyama could get the chance to face another native of Japan on Thursday. The Cubs start eight-year veteran Yu Darvish in the finale of the four-game series.
Bell praised the job Akiyama, who’s 2-for-7, has done in his role early this season.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Bell said. “Very professional. Low maintenance. I gave him a heads up before the season started. I said at least initially you may not start against a couple of the left-handed starters. He really appreciated that and took it upon himself to find a routine that would keep him ready. He knew he was going to get a lot of pinch-hitting opportunities and likely come into the game as early as the fourth or fifth inning. I know he wants to play, but he’s been really great on how to approach that. You look at what he’s doing. He’s facing all these pitchers and teams for the first time. He’s done a lot of homework. He’s really studied and just handled it well.”
NOTES: Tucker Barnhart came off the paternity list Tuesday. His wife, Sierra, gave birth to a boy, Benson Jude Barnhart, on Saturday. Curt Casali started the first four games at catcher. ... The Reds also placed reliever Robert Stephenson on the 10-day injured list with a mid-back sprain.