Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pirates claim Japanese pitcher Hisanori Takahashi.

The Pittsburgh Pirates claimed left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. Takahashi is 37-years-old, played his Japanese ball with the Yomiuri Giants, and has been in the Major Leagues since 2010.

The Pirates have had practically no success with Japanese players in the past, and only two have played---Masumi Kuwata and Aki Iwamura---for their big-league roster. Though the Pirates briefly had a Japanese relif pitcher in their system last winter, Takahashi will be the first Japanese player on the team since 2010.

Kuwata was the most intriguing, and spent part of 2007 with the Pirates. He was signed as a 39-year-old and after a successful career in Japan, but followed a path typical of Pirates acquisitions over the past two decades. The timeline on his Baseball Reference wiki page:
"1987-1994: The Glory Years," "1995-1996: Injury," "1997-2002: Post-Injury," "2003-2006: Further decline," "To the USA."
Nonetheless he was treated with respect by the Pirates at his retirement during spring training in 2008:
Kuwata, a baseball superstar in his native Japan, formally announced his retirement after the Pirates' 7-4 victory against the Detroit Tigers this afternoon, a game in which manager John Russell asked him to pitch one final time as a show of respect. But he declined.

"He told us he's pitched thousands of innings, that we should use that time to look at pitchers for our future," Russell said. "He's a class act, a true professional and a great human being. We wish him the best of luck in everything he does."

The ritual at the mound was meant to symbolize a farewell to the game. And, although Kuwata's impact in Pittsburgh was negligible, some in the assembled Japanese media were saying that this farewell would top their nation's news for the day.

"He's a legend in our country," said reporter Yasuko Yanagita, who broke the story of Kuwata's retirement for the Hochi Shimbun sports daily. "Everyone will want to know about this, and everyone will be surprised."

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