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Kodai Senga’s long-awaited Mets debut is here

MIAMI — Kodai Senga wants as many family members and friends as possible watching back home when he takes the mound for his major league debut Sunday afternoon.

One small challenge: It will be 2:40 a.m. on Monday in Japan as the Mets begin their game against the Marlins.

“If I am good friends with them and they are not going to be awake to watch me I will make sure they are awake,” Senga said through his interpreter Saturday at loanDepot park.

How will he make sure they are awake?

“A lot of calls,” Senga said.

Senga’s appearance will be the Mets’ first big unveiling of the season.

That designation was reserved for Justin Verlander heading into Opening Day, but the Mets co-ace was placed on the injured list with a low-grade strain of the teres major muscle near his armpit.

Another free-agent addition to the rotation, Jose Quintana, is sidelined at least into July after undergoing rib surgery.

Mets starter Kodai Senga will make his major league debut on Sunday against the Marlins.

That leaves Senga, who arrived from Japan in December on a five-year contract worth $75 million, as the first new starter in this rotation to receive his Mets baptism.

“It’s one of those things where you don’t want to have crazy expectations, you just want him to feel comfortable,” said catcher Tomas Nido, who is scheduled behind the plate for Senga’s start. “He’s in a whole new world for him here, but he doesn’t seem affected by any of the environment so far, so we are excited.”

Senga threw in an intrasquad scrimmage on Monday, redeploying his signature “ghost” forkball after backing off the pitch because of concern about tendonitis near the base of his right index finger.

The right-hander used the pitch about 12-15 times by his estimate, which he says is the norm for a regular season game.

From that last appearance in camp, Senga said he left convinced he can perform at the level he wants in his first major league start, using everything he learned in spring training.

Max Scherzer started Thursday’s opener, giving Senga a chance to watch a future Hall of Fame pitcher face largely the same lineup that Senga will get a chance against Sunday. Senga was asked if he learned anything watching that start.

“It just made me realize that even superstar pitchers like Max get home runs hit off of them,” Senga said, referring to Garrett Cooper’s two-run blast against Scherzer. “And I need to do whatever I can to prepare and get ready for [Sunday].”

Buck Showalter appreciated that Senga was quick in adjusting to the pitch clock in spring training, assimilating to it even better than pitchers who were familiar with it from pitching in the minor leagues last season.

Kodai Senga

The manager acknowledged that Senga’s pitch count likely will be watched more closely than others as the pitcher adjusts to the new scene of starting every fifth or sixth day instead of waiting to the seventh.

“It’s a factor,” Showalter said, referring to pitch count. “But you also look at the off days and the things that we built in to make sure we try to ease that in slowly and also make sure that he can withstand it. We have tried to build into the rotation where the days are there.

“We have done that with all our guys, but especially him.”

Senga, according to Showalter, feeds off doubts there might be about him.

“I think he’s wired a little differently from a competitive standpoint than some of the other guys [in Japan],” Showalter said. “He’s been told a lot over there he couldn’t do something and he proved them wrong at every turn.”