Team: Lotte Marines
Current status: Eligible for domestic free agency.
Pos: Relief pitcher Birthdate: April 3, 1988. Throws: R
Honors: 2011 CL Rookie of the year
League leader: Saves 2016
A front-line starter for 3-1/2 seasons from his 2011 rookie year with the Yomiuri Giants, Sawamura transitioned to the bullpen in 2015. He saved 36 games that year and 37 the next.
On March 18, he was suddenly scratched from a preseason appearance. What turned out to be undisclosed shoulder issues prevented him from being activated until September and then only for a few days. The team blamed the injury on mistakes made by a team acupuncture therapist at the end of spring training in February when he complained of shoulder discomfort.
He returned in the 2018 season, but his fastball did not, and he has picked up the slack as much as he could with a new slider and his splitter.
Sawamura’s midseason trade from the Giants to the Lotte Marines appears from Yomiuri’s side to have been a salary dump, but it was a new lease on life for the pitcher.
Basically fastball, splitter. He threw his splitter 42.4 percent of the time since moving to the Marines. Only struggling BayStars closer Yasuaki Yamasaki threw it more often. Delta Graphs rated Sawamura’s splitter as the best — and fastest — in Japan among pitchers who threw it more than a few times.