NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF. – Kyuji Fujikawa, whose 220 saves are fifth most in Nippon Professional Baseball history, threw five hitless innings on Sunday for the Hanshin Tigers.
The 35-year-old right-hander is returning to NPB after three years and trying to make the transition to starter. In his second preseason game, Fujikawa allowed one walk and struck out one in a 4-0 preseason win over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters at Koshien Stadium.
“I felt good throwing. I think this was a good preparation for the season,” said Fujikawa, who a week earlier escaped a first-inning jam to hold the Yomiuri Giants to a run in four innings.
Although Fujikawa continued to rely heavily on the fastball-forkball combination he thrived on as a closer, he mixed in some curves and cutters in an efficient 55-pitch effort.
“If you take a long-term view, it’s good to have balance, throw a variety of pitches and get batters to put the ball in play. Going forward, I think that is going to be essential,” said Fujikawa, whose previous incarnation was all about swings and misses.
Fujikawa moved to the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs as a free agent in 2013, but was limited to just 29 big league games in three seasons. He began the 2015 season with the Texas Rangers on a minor league deal and pitched in two games for them. He finished last year pitching in Japan’s independent Shikoku Island League.