PHOENIX -- Chili Davis doesn't know Hiroyuki Nakajima well, and Nakajima doesn't know Davis much, either.
That all started to change over the weekend when Davis, the A's batting coach, and Nakajima, the new Oakland shortstop, sat in the dugout at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and talked hitting for half an hour, well after almost everyone else had cleared out.
It continued on Presidents Day when the two got to the park early, went out on the back field and did drills, worked off a batting tee and generally got started revving up Nakajima's swing in preparation for the start of 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 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 -- he averaged 17 home runs per year -- while playing six seasons for Seibu and getting four All-Star berths.
The time spent with Davis has been valuable. Like other players from Japan, such as Ichiro Suzuki, Nakajima often served as his own batting coach. Unlike Suzuki, however, he seems willing to have a batting coach help.
"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 a similar issue last year when the A's brought in Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, a newcomer who had never been in the United States.
This is different, though, because Davis speaks some Spanish. Japanese? Not so much. The batting coach said one of his goals this spring is to learn some key Japanese words 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."
"(Japanese hitters) who have succeeded here haven't been afraid of the spotlight," said Melvin, who managed Suzuki a decade ago in Seattle. "Hiro is like that."
"The machine was sending knuckleballs into the air," he said. "And it was a really high sky, very tough. It can be like that here. But it's hard to watch."