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Abe, Yoshikawa garner 2012 MVP honors

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

In a year that will be remembered for the huge triumphs by the Giants of both NPB and MLB, Yomiuri catcher Shinnosuke Abe finally won the big prize.

Abe’s spectacular 2012 campaign was capped on Wednesday when he was named the Central League MVP for the first time prior to the 2012 NPB convention.

Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters pitcher Mitsuo Yoshikawa was the Pacific League winner.

“I’d attended conventions in the past and always looked up to those who won,” Abe said. “I never thought I’d win one.”

Abe flirted with the Triple Crown this season, leading all of Japan with a .340 batting average and 104 RBIs. His 27 home runs were second only to the 31 hit by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Wladimir Balentien.

“It’s a shame I didn’t win it,” Abe said of the home run title. “At least I had a chance. I don’t know how much longer I can play, but hopefully I’ll have won one before the end of my career.”

Just as the Yomiuri Giants and San Francisco Giants each won their respective league title, Abe’s win means the starting catcher for each team was named his league’s MVP. San Francisco’s Buster Posey was named National League MVP earlier this month.

Among Japanese players, Abe is the fourth catcher to win the CL MVP and first since Swallows great Atsuya Furuta won his second in 1997. He’s also the first left-handed hitting catcher to win the award.

Abe thanked his teammates after accepting the honor.

“I didn’t win this award because of the numbers and titles I earned,” Abe said. “I won it because we won the championship. I don’t think I won it by myself, but with the support of the other members of the team, including the ones behind the scenes.”

The Yomiuri captain was the driving force behind the Giants’ run to the Japan Series, where they defeated the Fighters in six games.

“We had our backs against the wall both during the season and in the Climax Series,” Abe said. “But we reached the Japan Series, so it was really special.”

Abe said the next goal will be to help guide the Kyojin back to the top.

“As a team, winning the Japan Series is our goal every single year,” he said. “It never changes.”

Yoshikawa captured his first MVP award after finishing 14-5 with an NPB-best 1.71 ERA, carrying the load for the Fighters in their first season without ace pitcher Yu Darvish.

“Obviously only one player can win per year, so it’s an extreme honor,” Yoshikawa said. “I’m not sure if it’s really OK that I’m the one who won.”

The 24-year-old Yoshikawa is the youngest left-hander to win the award and the first non-rookie hurler to be named PL MVP after finishing the previous year with no wins.

“I was able to have this outcome because of the support of our manager (Hideki Kuriyama),” Yoshikawa said.

“He kept his faith in me and kept using me throughout the year. He’s the one I owe most.”

Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.