This is just a PREVIEW of what is to come

Fukudome reaches base 3 different ways, Cubs beat Giants 12-6
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By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP)—Kosuke Fukudome got on base every which way in his first exhibition game for the Chicago Cubs.

The Japanese newcomer was plunked on the first pitch he saw in the first inning, walked in his next turn and then hit an RBI single to help the Cubs beat the San Francisco Giants 12-6 Thursday in an exhibition opener.

Fukudome answered all of one question in English afterward: “Is American baseball easy?”

“No!” he said with a smile, shaking his head for emphasis.

Mike Fontenot hit a three-run homer and tripled and Felix Pie homered and doubled for Chicago. Ryan Theriot had three base hits in the leadoff spot for the NL champions.

Much of the attention was on Fukudome. The 30-year-old made his debut in the United States as Chicago’s new right fielder and batted third after signing a $48 million, four-year contract in December.

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“It will take him a little while to get acclimated to the pitching but he got hit by a pitch and got a base hit to left field,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “Kosuke got started the right way. The key with him is seeing pitches.”

Before the game, Fukudome walked toward the Giants’ dugout, got the attention of countryman and pitcher Keiichi Yabu, removed his cap and bowed.

Fukudome drew some cheers in Scottsdale Stadium when he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning wearing his bright blue No. 1 uniform. He then was hit in the right shoulder by Noah Lowry’s first offering.

“It slipped right out of my hand like an ice cube,” Lowry said. “The outing for me stunk. I was terrible out there. … I definitely wasn’t trying to hit him. I tried to come up and in. I was erratic all day. It happens.”

Lowry was done after 35 pitches—just 15 strikes. Reliever Billy Sadler walked Fukudome on seven pitches.

“I like to see a lot of pitches and I like to try out some things in spring training,” Fukudome said through an interpreter. “It’s still spring training and all the signs are simple. I really didn’t get one today.

“I’m happy that people are watching back in Japan.”

Piniella and his coaching staff were equally as eager as the Japanese fans to see Fukudome for the first time. A big crew of Japanese media chronicle his debut.

Fukudome is coming off right elbow surgery last August that kept him out of the Japan Series. In nine seasons with the Chunichi Dragons, he batted .305 with 192 homers, a .397 on-base percentage. His team won its first championship in 53 years on Nov. 2.

He was the 2006 Central League MVP, batting .351 with 31 homers and 104 RBIs. He won two batting titles and four Gold Gloves in Japan.

There was no Barry Bonds in San Francisco’s outfield—not that the departed and indicted home run king typically appeared in exhibition games this early, anyway. Dave Roberts played left field in place of No. 25, while Aaron Rowand made his Giants debut in center and batted the cleanup spot. Injured catcher Bengie Molina is set to bat fourth once he’s healthy.

Rowand singled to left on the first pitch he saw, following Randy Winn’s solo homer.

“He was taking over for Barry, I guess—a home run his first time up,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Kevin Frandsen began what could be a six-week stint as San Francisco’s fill-in shortstop while 11-time Gold Glover Omar Vizquel recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee performed Wednesday.

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