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Oct 19, 2005:

Turning Japanese in the Bullpen?

Hirotoshi Ishii

(Sponichi Annex Photo)

Lefty Closer Hirotoshi Ishii
Could Be on the Sox Radar for 2006

10.19 Update -- ESPN's Peter Gammons tells BDD: "Three weeks ago his catcher agreed to become manager only if he withdrew his name from being posted, and he did. Ishii has asked the club not to renege on their promise to post him... Craig Shipley (Red Sox Special Assistant to the General Manager/Player Development and International Scouting) likes him, but they won't pay closer money, and they think he'll get that. Their presence in Japan is unrivaled, and they have made two big signings in Taiwan."

The following report is from Boston Dirt Dogs contributor and founder of, Daigo Fujiwara.

Sports Nippon Newspaper (Tokyo's daily sports and entertainment newspaper, its parent company is Mainichi Newspaper) is reporting that the Red Sox are one of several clubs interested in Hirotoshi Ishii, the 28-year-old lefthanded closer of the Yakult Swallows. The report states that the Red Sox may have the edge over other teams, are showing "especially strong interest," and that Boston is in desperate need of bullpen help.

Ishii, not to be confused with New York Mets lefthander Kazuhisa Ishii, who is no relation, is a dominating relief pitcher in Japan's Central League. He finished second in saves (37) in the league despite pitching for a fourth place, sub-.500 team. He was named Best Setup Pitcher in 2002, then he missed parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons with an injury (pain in right ribs), but pitched a solid (and healthy) 2005 season as the closer for the team. His ERA for the past four years is: 1.51, 1.99, 2.05, 1.95.

Japanese relievers have done well in the US, starting with Kaz Sasaki for the Mariners, Shige Hasegawa (Mariners), Shingo Takatsu (White Sox) and recently Akinori Otsuka of the Padres. He should be as good as those pitchers, only he's younger. He is still under contract with the Swallows, so the team has to approve his move to a major league team, but he is serious about coming to the majors and he was recently in Los Angeles watching the ALCS. He also has hired the same Japanese agent who represented Kaz Ishii (Dodgers - Mets) and Takatsu (White Sox - Mets). Both of those players played for the Swallows as did Roberto Petagine. He made about $800,000 this year. He will provide solid bullpen help from the left side and has ability and potential to close out games.

Furuta, the Swallows catcher recently named the 2006 manager (the first player/manager in some 30 years in Japanese pro ball), is not happy that Ishii wants to go to the majors, but he said he will respect the pitcher’s decision. The team owner does not want Ishii to go and he did say on Oct. 6 that he will NOT allow him to go to the majors. I do not know what his stance is now.

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