Sugano Free to go

Tomoyuki Sugano, perhapsJapan’s most consistent pitching star over the past seven years, will be allowed to negotiate with major league teams via the posting system this winter if he wishes, the Yomiuri Giants revealed Wednesday night according to multiple Japanese news outlets including Sponichi.

Who wants to go to America?

The 31-year-old’s calling card is plus command, poise, and a plus slider to go with an average to above-average fastball and split, and the consensus among scouts is that he will slot somewhere in between a No. 2 and 4, but would be a plus to any major league team’s rotation.

The move was expected once the Giants’ season ended Wednesday in a 4-0 Japan Series defeat to the Pacific League’s juggernauts, the SoftBank Hawks.

The right-hander, who was a strong candidate this season to win his third Sawamura Award as Japan’s most impressive starting pitcher, took the loss in Game 1 of the series on Saturday, but pitched well.

Sugano has long dreamed of playing in the majors and has not been shy about saying so, although he had never mentioned posting publicly. He reportedly wanted to turn pro with a major league team out of university when the PL’s Nippon Ham Fighters won his draft rights in the autumn of 2011. Instead, he sat out the 2012 season so he could play for the Giants, managed by his uncle, Tatsunori Hara.

Perhaps the biggest reason Sugano might decide to stay is concern over health.

While Japan is now entering a third wave of infections and achieving record numbers — 2,508 new cases nationwide last Saturday — the situation is not nearly as dire-looking here as it is in the States, and baseball games have had limited crowds since mid July. NPB played just completed a 120-game season, paired down from its normal 143 with reduced playoffs.

Here is Kyodo News‘ English story.

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