With the Mariners and A’s ready to start the 2012 season in Tokyo, Japan tomorrow morning, I thought it would be interesting to look back at the Red Sox history with Japanese born players.
Tomo Ohka (1999-2001)
Ohka excelled in the minors in 1999 and 2000, being named Red Sox minor league player of the year each season. Ohka threw the Pawtucket Red Sox first no-hitter in 1999 and followed it up in 2000 with the Intenational League’s first nine-inning perfect game since 1952. He spent parts of three seasons in Boston (1999-2001) but was unable to match his minor league production; logging a 4.61 ERA in 33 games (25 starts). He would go to have a good career with 4 more teams in 7 Major League seasons.
Hideo Nomo (2001)
Nomo took Major League Baseball by storm in 1995 winning the NL Rookie of the Year pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although he was never able to reproduce that season, Nomo had a very good career that included a season with the Red Sox in 2001 in which he lead the AL in both walks (96) and strikeouts (220).
Dave Roberts (2004)
His inclusion on this list may surprise you, but his father was a Marine and his mother was native to Okinawa, Japan. He played in only 45 games for the Red Sox in 2004 but his steal in Game 4 of the ALCS will forever be one of the greatest moments in Red Sox history.
Hideki Okajima (2007-2011)
Okajima played in 5 seasons for the Red Sox posting a 3.11 ERA in 261 appearances out of the bullpen. He was a dominant set-up man from 2007-2009 and played a huge roll in the Red Sox 2007 World Series victory. He is returning to Japan for the 2012 season.
Daisuke Matzusaka (2007-)
The hype surrounding Daisuke was astronomical and he has never lived up to it. So far his career has been about two things: walks and injuries. Despite that, he has made 105 starts and posted an above average 4.25 ERA. Daisuke is coming off Tommy John Surgery this season and it will be interesting to see where his career goes from here.
Junichi Tazawa (2009-)
Tazawa was not drafted by any Nippon Professional Baseball teams after high school. He dominated one year in a “corporate league” before opting to sign with the Red Sox instead of reentering the NPB draft. In 2009, he pitched well in AA and AAA before making his Major League debut in August. He lost his 2010 season to Tommy John Surgery but returned to pitch in 3 games for the Red Sox in 2011.
Takashi Saito (2009)
Saito signed and made his debut with the Dodgers in 2006 as a 36-year-old rookie. After three great seasons in LA he joined the Red Sox in 2009 and posted a 2.43 ERA in 56 appearances out of the bullpen. He spent 2010 with Atlanta, 2011 with Milwaukee, and is currently signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
*Glove tap to Googs for the heads-up about forgetting about Saito.