PHOENIX Chili Davis doesn't know Hiroyuki Nakajima well, and Nakajima doesn't know much about Davis, either.
Save for a couple of words, Davis doesn't know Japanese. Nakajima's English is growing, but his mastery of "What's up, bro?" isn't going to help him hit a major-league curveball.
Over the weekend, all that started to change when Davis, the A's batting coach, and Nakajima, the new Oakland shortstop, sat in the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium well after almost everyone else had cleared out and talked hitting for half an hour.
And it continued Monday. The two got to the stadium early, went to the back field and did drills, worked off a batting tee and generally began revving up Nakajima's swing in preparation for the first Cactus League games this weekend.
Davis said Nakajima, in his first year in the United States after a productive career in his native Japan, approached him and wanted to sit and talk before the full squad got on the field.
"It was basic to start," Davis said. "We went with 'I'm Chili' and 'I'm Hiro' and went from there. We needed to figure out what we need from each other and how to communicate with each other. That was the biggest thing, establishing communication.
"He has drills he liked to use while playing in Japan. He has routines. He has habits. I need to look at those and see how they help him, or if there might be something else that helps. He's never really hit off a batting tee before; that's one thing."
Nakajima was a .300 hitter with moderate power (17 homers per year) while playing six seasons for the Seibu Lions and getting four Japan All-Star Game berths.
He arrived in Phoenix on Jan. 31 to get a jump on his first spring training camp, meeting many of his new teammates and tuning up his game.
The time spent with Davis has been particularly valuable. Like some other imports from Japan such as Ichiro Suzuki, Nakajima often serves as his own batting coach. Unlike Ichiro, however, he seems willing to take a batting coach, in this case Davis, into his preparation.
"Chili made the offer, and I jumped at the chance to talk to him," Nakajima said through an interpreter. "I try to use my knowledge and experience to keep my stroke good, but there are times when I will run into some difficulty, and I want to be able to go to him for help."
Davis went through something of a similar issue last year when the A's brought in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who had never been in the United States before signing a four-year deal with Oakland.
This is different, though, in that Davis speaks some Spanish. Japanese? Not so much. That being the case, the batting coach said one of his personal goals this spring is to learn some Japanese keywords that will help Nakajima.
"I need to be able to say the words that will work as triggers for him," Davis said. "Things that will help him with his stride, with his strike zone, with his swing. This is a guy who can hit. But everybody runs into rough patches. I want to make those as short as possible."
Manager Bob Melvin said in an approving way that Nakajima "likes the spotlight."
"(Japanese hitters) who have succeeded here haven't been afraid of the spotlight," said Melvin, who managed Ichiro in Seattle. "Hiro is like that."
Notes After missing Sunday's first full squad workout, infielder Scott Sizemore was back in uniform and working out Monday.
He'd needed the time off to be with his wife, Brooke, for the birth of the couple's first child, daughter Layla. He said he's not an expert yet at changing a diaper, but he's working on it.
Almost exactly this time last year, Sizemore, who had been considered the de facto A's third baseman for 2012, suffered a season-ending knee injury. He's now competing for the second base job.
"It's been a difficult year for him," Melvin said. "But he's a grinder and respects the game. I didn't see any changes in his demeanor when he was out."
Michael Ynoa, who at 21 is the youngest pitcher on Oakland's 40-man roster, still hasn't made his spring debut because of chicken pox. He is better now and will work out for a couple of days at the A's complex in the Dominican Republic before heading to Phoenix.