Tag Archives: Hirokazu Sawamura

2021 Kotatsu League

The “kotatsu league” is borrowed from the late great Wayne Graczyk, who used it to describe the offseason player market in a country where families used to spend winter mornings and evenings in the living room sitting around the kotatsu, with hands and feet under the blanket kept toasty warm by the heater under the table.

New imports

Overseas eligble

Moving in Japan

… via free agency

… non-tendered players

Notable players staying put

Tomoyuki Sugano – posted, unsigned

Contract deadline: Jan. 7, 5 pm EST.

The posting system deadline came and went for Sugano, who reportedly has a four-year deal waiting for him back home with the Giants.

Read the Kyodo News English story

Sugano traveled to the United States, leaving Japan on New Years Day, to confer with agent Josh Wolfe, and ostensibly take a physical prior to completing any deal.

The Yomiuri Giants announced on Dec. 8 they had completed the filing process for Sugano. His posting process has been anything but typical, and virtually every story about his potential move in Japanese has included a reminder that he might well choose to play in Japan in 2021.

There may be MLB scouts out there who don’t think Sugano would be a plus to any major league rotation, but so far, I haven’t heard that. The key word for him is pitchability. He should be decent out of the box and get better from there.

Because of that, Sugano’s probably going to get an offer he won’t want to walk away from.

Kohei Arihara – posted, signed Texas Rangers

Contract: Signed a 2-year contract with the Texas Rangers worth, according to cbs.com, worth $2.6 million in 2021 and $3.6 million in 2022. His 2020 contract was reportedly 145 million yen, about $1.3 million, although Japanese contracts are never made public so that is only the figure the team and player agreed to report.

Haruki Nishikawa – posted, unsigned

Contract deadline: Jan. 2, 5 pm EST.

In 2020, Nishikawa played out the final season of a two-year deal that reportedly paid him 200 million yen or roughly $1.8 million a year. He returns to the Fighters, however, his dream unfulfilled for the moment.

He spoke at an event in Sapporo in December in which he admitted hearing reports that his skills won’t play in MLB, but said he has some tricks up his sleeve Sankei Sports reported.

“I’ll be anxious (about the process) from start to finish, and then I’ll probably be anxious after that.”

–Nippon Fighters center fielder and leadoff hitter Haruki Nishikawa

Hirokazu Sawamura – free agent

Sawamura has reportedly hired Ichiro Suzuki‘s agent John Boggs to represent him, and said he hasn’t ruled out talks with Japanese clubs.

Shoichi Ino– signed Yomiuri Giants

Multiple sources on Friday, Nov. 11, reported Ino has turned down the BayStars and the Yakult Swallows to sign with the Yomiuri Giants for a salary around 100 million yen.

Takayuki Kajitani – signed Yomiuri Giants

Kajitani has reportedly agreed to a four-year 800 million yen deal with the Yomiuri Giants who will give him No. 13.

Yasuhiro Ogawa – re-signed Yakult Swallows

Nikkan Sports reported that Ogawa, who this year became the first pitcher in history to throw a no-hitter who had never before struck out 10 batters in a game, has drawn interest from the Pacific League’s Nippon Ham Fighters.

Instead, the right-hander decided to stay put with his original club.

Kotatsu League: Dec. 3

Sugano takes the next step

Although Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano has been cleared for takeoff to the majors via the posting system, there was no word yet whether he will go ahead and test the waters in MLB’s petri dish next season until Thursday night in Japan. At that point, Kyodo News‘ Japanese side reported that the right-hander had indeed asked his team to file the paperwork to post him.

The story suggested that Sugano will see what the market its like but is not 100-percent sold on moving to MLB this winter.

The Sugano posting so far has been an inversion of the regular process. Prior to 2019, there were two posting patterns, one for 10 teams and another for the SoftBank Hawks and the Giants

Teams other than SoftBank and Yomiuri

  1. Player speaks to media after meeting with team officials in December to discuss next year’s contract.
  2. Player tells the media that he’s told the team he wants to be posted.
  3. Team says it will be considered.
  4. The following year, the team posts the player.

SoftBank Hawks posting

  1. Player tells the media he wishes to be posted.
  2. Team tells the player to forget about it and focus on baseball

Yomiuri Giants posting

  1. Team denies any players will ever be posted.
  2. Sugano tells everyone he’ll go when he can but never says he asks to be posted.
  3. Team calls report that Shun Yamaguchi will be posted “untrue.”
  4. Team posts Shun Yamaguchi.
  5. One team official said policy toward posting players has not changed and that there are no exceptions — except Yamaguchi.
  6. Another team official said policy toward posting players has not changed but that Tomoyuki Sugano is an exception.
  7. Team reveals Sugano is free to go if he likes.
  8. Sugano at some point reveals whether he will go or not.

Nishikawa joins Arihara in posting que

The Nippon Ham Fighters revealed Thursday that they have posted center fielder and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa, who now joins ace pitcher Kohei Arihara in pursuit of major league work.

This past week, Hirokazu Sawamura filed for free agency, saying he would be open to offers from all 30 MLB clubs and all 12 in Japan. His teammate, Ayumu Ishikawa was allowed to go but decided against it this winter, citing the coronavirus situation in the States as one reason to stay put.

Fighters post stars

The Nippon Ham Fighters have agreed to post ace pitcher Kohei Arihara and center fielder Haruki Nishikawa, both 28, Sports Nippon first reported Tuesday, news that has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.

The Fighters are one of the Pacific League’s two minor powers over the past decade, but unlike their growth spurt after posting Yu Darvish, the team has skidded since sending Shohei Ohtani to the majors in 2018. Now they will lose a quality leadoff man — if someone takes Nishikawa — and their best pitcher, Arihara.

Japanese teams used to be able to decline insufficient posting fees but have since signed away those rights to MLB, so their only return in a soft market for Japanese position players is going to be minimal.

Arihara should net them around $10 million in fees when all is said and done.

The Fighters are in an interesting position. The team is not positioned to win for the next few years, and they will open their own stadium in 2023. Once they leave Sapporo Dome, the club will turn into a money-making machine, that could fund massive development and allow them to challenge the SoftBank Hawks, something they are incapable of at this instant.

The Seibu Lions have also invested heavily in infrastructure around the team’s home base in Saitama Prefecture on the western outskirts of Tokyo. That will likely keep the Lions from tumbling to where the Fighters are now, but their stadium’s location is always going to be a bottleneck for future success.

Who’s next

With Arihara and Nishikawa going into the December posting market, and Lotte Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa taking a pass, that leaves Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano left as the big name yet to decide. There has been chatter about Marines reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, and MLB teams ARE interested in his wild, fastball-forkball arsenal, but Sugano is the prize if he and the Giants decide the time is right.

Sugano will be an international free agent a year from now, and the Giants would love to keep him around to help at a third straight Japan Series defeat, I mean birth, but in the way few MLB teams and fans would understand, the Giants owe him the chance to go if he likes.

Sugano pitched OK in Game 1 of the Japan Series on Saturday, and the game could easily have gone the other way, but if you want to see the real deal, watch him in the 2017 WBC semifinal against the United States.

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NPB 2020 Nov. 5

Thursday’s games

Other news

Higashihama’s luck runs out

Things went south in a hurry for Nao Higashihama, and the Lotte Marines exploited their advantage to pick up a crucial 6-1 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Thursday at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium to stay in the Pacific League playoff picture.

Higashihama (9-2) needed two big plays from Yusuke Masago. The Hawks center fielder saved two runs by making a catch against the wall in the second inning, but couldn’t quite haul in Hisanori Yasuda’s two-out fifth-inning fly to the gap in left.

The Marines came from a run down in the inning after Seiya Inoue, who was robbed by Masago in the second, got justice with a one-out broken-bat single. With first baseman Kenji Akashi holding the big Marine at first, Yudai Fujioka bounced one over his head to put two on. With two outs, a decent 0-2 fastball drifted into the heart of the zone, and the rookie Yasuda put a good swing on it, driving it to left center. Masago came up short and the ball bounced to the wall. Fujioka, who had to hesitate on the play scored on a close play at the plate.

Trailing 2-1 in the sixth, Higashihama gave up a one-out single and three two-out walks.

Manabu Mima (10-4) allowed an unearned run in the third. With two on and two outs, he gloved a liner from Yuki Yanagita but lost control of the ball. He retrieved it and threw wide to first, scoring the Hawks’ only run of the game. With the tying run at the plate in the form of slugger Alfredo Despaigne, Hirokazu Sawamura came in and struck out the big Cuban on four straight splitters. The Marines’ lucky two-run fifth snapped a 28-scoreless-inning streak since Lotte scratched him for a run in the Hawks’ 5-1 win on Oct. 10.

Eagles ride late rally

Thirty-two-year-old veteran Ginji Akaminai and rookie Hiroto Kobukata each doubled in a ninth-inning run off Taiwan right-hander Chang-Yi (2-4) as the Rakuten Eagles broke up a 2-2 tie to beat the Orix Buffaloes 4-2 at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.

Former Padre Kazuhisa Makita (2-2) earned the win, and lefty Yuki Matsui earned his second save as he transitions back to the bullpen after spending the first half of the season transitioning to the starting rotation. Longtime starter Wataru Karashima, who spent the first half of the season in the bullpen, allowed two runs over seven innings in which he struck out 10, walked one and allowed five hits.

Ono earns Dragons an ‘A’

Sawamura Award winner in waiting Yudai Ono (11-6) struck out seven and walked one over seven innings to pitch the Chunichi Dragons to a 2-0 win over the DeNA BayStars at Nagoya Dome. The win clinched the Dragons’ first top-three “A-class” finish since 2012.

That 2012 second-place finish came under the late Morimichi Takagi in the first year after the club fired their best manager ever, Hiromitsu Ochiai, for not being fan friendly, and three years after the team’s parent company began cutting spending in the wake of the downturn in Japan’s newspaper business.

Ono leads the CL with a 1.82 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 10 complete games, six shutouts and 148-2/3 innings.

Speedy Murakami swipes 3 in 1 inning

Munetaka Murakami raised his career stolen base total to 16 with three in the second inning of the Yakult Swallows’ 8-7 loss to the Hanshin Tigers.

The steals came in his 265th career game, as he became the 17th player in Japan to manage the feat. The 20-year-old cleanup hitter singled, took second on the next pitch, stole third as part of a double steal. He stole home when the Tigers tried to pick off his teammate at second.

The feat hadn’t occurred in the CL since 1953. It last happened in Japan when Nippon Ham’s Makoto Shimada did it in 1979.

The Tigers overcame a seven-run implosion by right-hander Yuki Nishi.

Chono leads Carp, Sakamoto inches closer

Former Giant Hisayoshi Chono hit his 10th home run and set up the winning run with a 10th-inning leadoff single as the Hiroshima Carp came from behind to beat Yomiuri 5-4 at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto belted his 18th home run in the sixth inning. The two-run shot tied it 2-2 and moved Sakamoto within two hits of 2,000 for his career.

Government slams ‘Tazawa Rule’

Japan’s government announced Thursday that it was a day late and a dollar short. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, the fair trade commission said it suspected Nippon Professional Baseball’s Tazawa Rule was a violation of Japan’s antimonopoly act.

NPB gave up on the rule this summer, and the FTC said it has dropped its investigation. The biggest surprise is less that the FTC dropped its inquiry than the realization that Japan actually has an antimonopoly law.

The rule in question was created in 2008 in the days before Tazawa, a top amateur prospect with corporate club Japan Energy, signed with the Boston Red Sox. The rule was aimed at players who turned pro overseas, and prohibited Japanese clubs from signing them after they returned to Japan for a period of two-to-three years.

The whole thing was riddled with irony, no less because the rule was put into place about the same time that lefty reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi was named Central League rookie of the year. Yamaguchi had turned pro in the United States, where he played rookie ball in Missoula, Montana.

The rule may have influenced high school pitchers Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani as they chose to remain in Japan after declaring their intent to go overseas.

NPB did away with the Tazawa rule this summer when he returned to Japan and joined the Musashino Heat Bears of the independent Baseball Challenge League.

In retrospect, the rule negatively impacted Tazawa and NPB, while limiting the options of two other players who were keen on turning pro with a major league club, Yusei Kikuchi and Shohei Ohtani.

The rule prevented Tazawa from choosing to enter NPB’s 2019 draft rather than accept a camp invite with the Cincinnati Reds. It also prevented Japan from selecting him in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic.

The 2013 squad, Japan’s first not to reach the final, was prohibited from selecting Tazawa, despite both head coach Masataka Nashida and pitching coach Tsuyoshi Yoshida saying how useful his participation would have been.

By getting rid of the rule, it made Tazawa eligible to be drafted last October, but no teams even took a flyer on him–a common practice when a player has broken one of the owners’ unwritten rules. Players of known quality who leave their teams in contract disputes have historically been ignored.

Martin re-enlists with Marines

Outfielder Leonys Martin, who is currently out with an ankle sprain and is expected to miss most or all of the postseason if the Lotte Marines qualify, has agreed to a two-year extension, ESPN’s Enrique Rojas has reported.

The deal according to Rojas is worth $6 million. The 32-year-old joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline joined Lotte just before last year’s July 31 new-signing deadline. Since then, he has made a big contribution with his powerful arm and his home run pop.

Although his numbers have been remarkably consistent since he arrived, his on-base percentage has jumped in 2020 because he is leading both of Japan’s leagues in being hit by pitches with 17, in 448 plate appearances.

Active roster moves 11/5/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/15

Central League

Activated

SwallowsP44Hiroki Onishi

Dectivated

BayStarsP20Yuya Sakamoto
CarpP66Atsushi Endo
SwallowsP19Masanori Ishikawa

Pacific League

Activated

BuffaloesOF25Ryo Nishimura

Dectivated

FightersP18Kosei Yoshida
BuffaloesOF00Hayato Nishiura

Starting pitchers for Nov. 6, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Takayuki Kishi (6-0, 3.39) vs Shota Hamaya (3-2, 4.84)

Buffaloes vs Fighters: Kyocera Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Hiroya Miyagi (0-1, 4.09) vs Ryusei Kawano (3-4, 5.13)

Central League

Dragons vs Swallows: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-2, 5.71) vs Keiji Takahashi (1-3, 3.98)

NPB 2020 Oct. 9

Friday’s games

Other news

2 trees, 1 run, 0 games behind

Lotte Marines right-hander Kota Futaki (6-2) improved to 3-0 this season against the SoftBank Hawks in a 3-1 win at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.

The Marines, who improved to 11-4-1 this season against the Hawks, pulled into a virtual tie with the league leaders, trailing only by winning-percentage points.

Futaki struck out nine, walked one and allowed three hits. The Hawks’ only run came when Akira Nakamura connected with a high straight fastball in the first inning and launched his sixth home run into the home run terrace in right field.

The right-hander located his fastball and had a particularly nasty slider that he used to change speeds and stay ahead of the game.

Hawks lefty Matt Moore (4-3) fought a gutsy rearguard action after fate conspired against him in the Marines’ two-run first. He allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman.

He notched three of his eight strikeouts in the third after Leonys Martin was on third with no outs in a bad night for Hawks catcher Takuya Kai, who gave up three steals and bobbled a throw to the plate that allowed a run to score in the first.

Marines rookie Kyota Fujiwara, their first pick out in the 2018 draft, singled in an insurance run in the sixth after catcher Tatsuhiro Tamura singled and stole his first base of the year.

Hirokazu Sawamura dialed his fastball up to 157 kph in a 1-2-3 eighth and Naoya Masuda worked an easy ninth to record his league-best 29th save. Yuki Yanagita, who struck out three times against Futaki, completed a nightmare evening by grounding into a double play.

Neal hangs in to earn win

Zach Neal and the Seibu Lions did some expert damage control, keeping the first inning from blowing up on them in a 5-2 win over the Rakuten Eagles at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Neal (4-6) allowed two runs over six innings on five hits, two walks and a hit batsman, while Eagles starter Takahiro Shiomi (4-7) gave up three runs in the third, when he allowed three hits and a walk.

The Eagles’ D.J. Johnson struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth, but Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda ended the game with the tying run at the plate to record his 26th save.

Tajima holds off Fighters

Lefty Daiki Tajima (4-4) allowed two runs over six innings as the Orix Buffaloes beat the Nippon Ham Fighters at Sapporo Dome.

Tajima gave up three hits and two walks while striking out two. Kensuke Kondo accounted for both of the hosts’ runs off him with a two-run sixth-inning homer.

Adam Jones drove in two runs for the Buffaloes with a walk and a single, while Takahiro Okada homered and drove in three. Tyler Higgins worked a 1-2-3 eighth before the Fighters scored twice off Brandon Dickson in the ninth.

Swallows outlast Carp

Twenty-year-old rookie Taiki Masuda broke a sixth-inning tie by leading off a six-run sixth with a home run in the the Yakult Swallows’ 12-7 win over the Hiroshima Carp at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.

Each team used seven pitchers in the 4-hour, 16-minute game that saw the teams combine for 31 hits.

Active roster moves 10/9/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 10/19

Central League

Activated

SwallowsC52Yuhei Nakamura

Dectivated

GiantsP41Kota Nakagawa
BayStarsP35Tomoya Mikami

Pacific League

Activated

MarinesP65Takuro Furuya
BuffaloesOF6Yuma Mune
BuffaloesOF56Yusuke Matsui

Dectivated

None

Starting pitchers for Oct. 10, 2020

Pacific League

Fighters vs Buffaloes: Sapporo Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Kohei Arihara (5-8, 3.83) vs Taisuke Yamaoka (2-3, 2.51)

Eagles vs Lions: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Ryota Ishibashi (1-4, 5.94) vs Daiki Enokida (0-1, 7.13)

Hawks vs Marines: PayPay Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Nao Higashihama (6-1, 2.66) vs Toshiya Nakamura (2-4, 4.79)

Central League

Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Yariel Rodriguez (2-3, 3.38) vs Seishu Hatake (2-3, 3.79)

Tigers vs BayStars: Koshien Stadium 2 pm, 1 am EDT

Joe Gunkel (1-3, 3.62) vs Haruhiro Hamaguchi (6-5, 4.56)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Masato Morishita (7-3, 2.43) vs Albert Suarez (4-1, 2.34)

NPB 2020 Sept. 7

Tigers throw one away

The Yomiuri Giants scored twice on bad throws from Hanshin Tigers center fielder Koji Chikamoto and held on to a 3-2 at Koshien Stadium on Monday.

Cristopher Mercedes (3-4) worked six scoreless innings to earn the win and left with a 3-0 lead after allowing two hits and no walks. He fell afoul of Japan’s three-second balk convention that requires pitchers to pause that long before delivering his pitch or be called for a balk.

The Giants opened in the scoring in the third. Takumi Oshiro saw two-straight high 2-2 fastballs from Haruto Takahashi. He fouled off the first one that had more life on it but lined the second to left for an opposite field single. Takahashi left an 0-1 pitch up to Naoki Yoshikawa and he chopped it past first for a single. A bunt and a walk loaded the bases.

Oshiro tagged up on a fly to shallow center but it was just for show. He returned to third, but turned around and scored when Chikamoto’s throw hit the backstop on the fly.

Oshiro delivered a sacrifice fly to the same spot in shallow left center in the fourth, and Kazuma Okamoto hustled home to score. Chikamoto took no chances with this throw, making it so low that it rolled the last 30 feet to the plate and Okamoto easily outran it.

Okamoto doubled in a run in the fifth, and Takahashi (2-2) left after six having allowed three runs, one earned, on nine hits and three walks.

The Tigers didn’t supply all the weirdness, though. Tigers captain Kento Itohara, starting for the first time since July 22 because of a broken hamate bone, singled to open the Tigers seventh, and scored on Justin Bour’s two-out single off the third Giants pitcher in the inning — and the second one he faced in the at-bat.

With two on and two outs, Kan Otake got ahead of him 1-2. But the right-hander was yanked after his third pitch was hit foul into the upper reaches of Koshien Stadium’s right-field stands. Lefty Ryusei Oe took over with a 2-1 count and gave up an RBI infield single but the Tigers settled for a run.

Itohara homered to lead off the ninth against Rubby De La Rosa, but he held on to earn his ninth save.

Giants dump Sawamura in trade

The Giants made news earlier in the day by announcing they had sent former closer Hirokazu Sawamura to the Lotte Marines for unheralded 24-year-old outfielder Kazuya Katsuki in a deal that looks like nothing more than a salary dump.

The 32-year-old Sawamura was reportedly making 154 million yen this year, roughly $1.4 million. He was the Giants’ closer in 2015 and 2016 after failing to make a huge impact in the starting rotation. Katsuki is a minor leaguer whose only apparent skill is some raw power — he hit 12 Eastern League home runs in 2018. His salary is reported as 6.5 million yen, roughly $60,000 which is just barely above the 4.4 million yen minimum for 70-man roster players.

Katsuki’s physique has drawn comparisons to that of fellow Osaka Toin HS graduate and six-time PL home run king Takeya Nakamura. The Seibu Lions slugger is known as “Okawari-kun,” which means literally the kid who goes back for another helping and is kind of Japan’s version of “Country Breakfast.”

Active roster moves 9/7/2020

Deactivated players can be re-activated from 9/17

Central League

Activated

None

Dectivated

BayStarsP48Masaya Kyoyama
BayStarsOF1Masayuki Kuwahara
DragonsP21Toshiya Okada
SwallowsP25Gabriel Ynoa

Pacific League

Activated

None

Dectivated

HawksIF8Kenji Akashi
EaglesP31Yuya Fukui
EaglesIF36Yasuhito Uchida

Starting pitchers for Sept. 4, 2020

Pacific League

Eagles vs Hawks: Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Wataru Karashima (0-1, 4.73) vs Kodai Senga (5-3, 3.88)

Lions vs Buffaloes: MetLife Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Kona Takahashi (4-6, 4.92) vs Yoshinobu Yamamoto (4-2, 3.05)

Marines vs Fighters: Zozo Marine Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yuta Omine (0-1, 12.60) vs Naoyuki Uwasawa (5-2, 2.66)

Central League

BayStars vs Tigers: Yokohama Stadium 5:45 pm, 4:45 am EDT

Yuya Sakamoto (1-0, 0.00) vs Onelki Garcia (2-5, 3.53)

Dragons vs Giants: Nagoya Dome 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Yudai Ono (5-3, 2.34) vs Tomoyuki Sugano (9-0, 1.57)

Carp vs Swallows: Mazda Stadium 6 pm, 5 am EDT

Allen Kuri (2-4, 4.76) vs Masanori Ishikawa (0-2, 4.85)