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Kazuhiro Sasaki
K Sasaki.JPG
Pitcher
Born: February 22, 1968 (1968-02-22) (age 41)
Sendai City, Japan
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Professional debut
NPB: 1990 for the Yokohama Taiyō Whales
MLB: April 5, 2000 for the Seattle Mariners
Last professional appearance
MLB: September 28, 2003 for the Seattle Mariners
NPB: 2005 for the Yokohama BayStars
career statistics
Games pitched     667
Earned run average     2.60
Saves     381
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Kazuhiro "Daimajin" Sasaki (佐々木 主浩 Sasaki Kazuhiro, born February 22, 1968 in Sendai City, Japan) is a retired relief pitcher. In his prime, he was one of the premier relievers of both Japanese and American professional baseball. He threw and batted right-handed.

Contents

Professional career

After playing college baseball for Tohoku Fukushi University, Sasaki was drafted with the seventh pick in the first round of the 1989 draft by the Yokohama Taiyō Whales (now named Yokohama BayStars) in Japan's Central League. He played for them from 1990-1999, before joining the Seattle Mariners in 2000. He joined a bullpen that had been one of the worst in the Major Leagues, and during his rookie year won the closer job from a floundering Jose Mesa. Sasaki's out pitch, a devastating split-fingered fastball that drops when arriving at home plate, was nicknamed "The Thang" by Mariners radio announcers.[1] He complemented it with a four-seam fastball that could reach the low-90s. Sasaki maintained a rigorous throwing program, sometimes at odds with club management, that saw him throw up to 100 pitches following games in which he did not appear.

Sasaki's transition to American baseball began with his being named American League Rookie of the Year. For three years, along with Jeff Nelson and Arthur Rhodes, Sasaki contributed to the best relief pitching corps in baseball. He decided to leave the Mariners before the last year of his contract in 2004, giving up $8.5 million, citing his desire to be with his family in Japan. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, however, Sasaki's real reason for returning to Japan was pressure from ownership, due to his "indiscreet philandering".[1]

Sasaki resumed his career with the BayStars upon returning to Japan, where he pitched for another year. But in his second year back, nagging knee and elbow injuries resulted in his release from Yokohama and subsequent retirement. His last official appearance came as a cameo against the Tokyo Giants on August 9, 2005, as he struck out his longtime friend and rival Kazuhiro Kiyohara in a game played at Fullcast Stadium Miyagi in his hometown.

In addition to his Rookie of the Year award, Sasaki set several Japanese professional baseball records, including saves (45) and save opportunities (46) for a single season in 1998; he was twice selected to play in the All-Star game, and was selected to eight All-Star teams in Japan. Sasaki's 37 saves in his rookie season with the Seattle Mariners remains a Major League Baseball record for saves by a rookie.

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Career statistics

Games Innings W L Saves Strikeout ERA
Japan League 439 627⅔ 43 38 252 851 2.41
Major League 228 223⅓ 7 16 129 242 3.14

Personal life

In 1991, he married former idol singer Kaori Shimizu. Together they had two children.

After returning to Japan in 2005, Sasaki continued his affair with actress Kanako Enomoto, who was thirteen years his junior. When Enomoto became pregnant, Shimizu divorced Sasaki on March 18, 2005. Enomoto would birth prematurely on April 29, 2005,[2] and the affair has caused the popularity of Sasaki and Enomoto to drop considerably.

Sasaki's interest in sports extend outside baseball. In 2002 and 2003, he lent his name and his pocketbook to Formula Nippon, an auto racing series in Japan. His Team 22 won two races in that time. He is known to wear a half sleeved shirt no matter what the weather is. He has also appeared as a judge on the Iron Chef television program.

He had a side recording career, with an album of his vocals over techno beats.

He chose 22 for his uniform number, because he was born at 2:22 on February 22 (2/22). The BayStars have permanently honored his number.

See also

References

External links

Awards
Preceded by
Atsuya Furuta
Central League MVP
1998
Succeeded by
Shigeki Noguchi
Preceded by
Hidetoshi Nakata
Japan Professional Sports Grand Prize
1998
Succeeded by
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Preceded by
Carlos Beltrán
American League Rookie of the Year
2000
Succeeded by
Ichiro Suzuki

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