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SAWAMURA AWARD

Darvish receives prestigious accolade

by Jason Coskrey

NAGOYA — Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Yu Darvish was outstanding this season. So it’s no surprise that the accolades have started rolling in.

After being named the Pacific League’s Climax Series MVP, Darvish collected an even bigger honer on Monday when he was named the 2007 Sawamura Award winner.

This is the first time that Darvish has won the award, which is given annually to the top pitcher in Japanese baseball.

“It’s just a wonderful achievement,” Fighters manager Trey Hillman said. “It’s a wonderful individual accomplishment.”

Darvish was modest after winning the award, deferring instead to the other top pitchers in the Pacific League.

“The Sawamura Award is such a great award,” Darvish said. “A pitcher such as Saito-san deserves that award.

“I can’t compare myself to Saito-san or Sugiuchi-san,” Darvish added referring to Fukuoka Softbank Hawks hurlers Kazumi Saito and Toshiya Sugiuchi.

Sugiuchi won the award in 2005 after going 18-4 with a 2.11 ERA, while Saito won in 2006 after posting an 18-5 record with a 1.75 ERA. Saito also won in 2003.

Darvish earned the award after finishing the year 15-5 with a 1.82 ERA. He led Japanese baseball with 210 strikeouts and finished second in wins and ERA.

Darvish sparked the Fighters to a Game 1 victory in Saturday’s Japan Series opener with a 13-strikeout effort in his second complete-game win of the 2007 postseason.

After going 12-5 with a 2.89 ERA in 2006, Darvish went into Nippon Ham’s training camp with renewed vigor. He credited his offseason training as one reason for his improvement this season.

“Last year, I would get a sore arm after about seven innings,” Darvish said. “This year I worked hard at training camp so I feel good this year.”