The April 19 edition of the Tokyo Chunichi Sports paper ran a headline that read, “Miceli fired by Giants.”

The story below indicated it had not happened yet, but it was just a matter of time until the Yomiuri Giants released disgruntled relief pitcher Dan Miceli.

Sure enough, at 3 p.m. that afternoon, prior to the Giants-Hanshin Tigers game at Tokyo Dome, media members received a press handout saying the right-hander had been placed on waivers.

Thus came to an end one of the briefest careers of any foreign player in the history of Japanese baseball.

The guy who had been counted on to solve the Yomiuri bullpen’s biggest problem and emerge as an effective closer was gone, just two-and-a-half weeks into the season, after four appearances, two blown saves and an embarrassing ERA of 23.63.

He botched his first save chance on Opening Night, April 1, losing to the Hiroshima Carp after giving up three earned runs while pitching one-third of the ninth inning. Miceli then failed to preserve a tie game on April 5 at Yokohama, surrendering a run in another one-third inning as the Giants suffered a “sayonara” 12-inning defeat, and he gave up three runs in one frame on April 7 against the BayStars as the Kyojin lost 14-6.

Yomiuri manager Tsuneo Horiuchi, having lost his confidence in the American hurler, called Miceli in to work an inning against the Chunichi Dragons on April 10 at Tokyo Dome, in a game the Giants were losing 10-0. That move perhaps embarrassed the pitcher, and it turned out to be his final stint on the mound in this country.

As Miceli’s pitching got worse, the Japanese media jumped all over him, pointing out several incidents and signs the 12-year major league veteran had not adapted to Japanese baseball or life in Dai Nippon. The following “episodes” were mentioned by various sports newspapers:

* When Miceli was told he was about 8 kg overweight after reporting to spring training in Miyazaki, he supposedly said there was nothing to worry about, that he would be losing the weight by eating sushi now that he’s here. (Hey, when in Japan, you gotta eat like the Japanese.)

* He was on several occasions observed sleeping in the bullpen during games. (Hey, you gotta get some rest in order to pitch well.)

* He was heard humming while taking a shower after the Giants walk-off loss at Yokohama. (Hey, you gotta put today’s game behind you and come back tomorrow.)

* As the press release announcing Miceli had been placed on waivers was being distributed at Tokyo Dome, he was in Tokyo’s Asakusa district doing some sightseeing. (Hey, might as well see some of the country and take in some Japanese culture before leaving.)

Miceli’s four appearances and two-and-a-third innings pitched is not the shortest stint by a foreign pitcher here.

Hector Mercado threw in one game last season for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and failed to retire even one batter, leaving his Japan career with no innings pitched and an ERA that cannot be calculated.

As for quick releases, Miceli’s dismissal beats the record of another former Giant, third baseman Jeff Manto, fired on May 2, 1996, after he played in 10 games for Yomiuri with no homers, one RBI and a .111 batting average.

The Giants will apparently swallow Miceli’s reported $1.8 million contract (which is said to include a stipulation he cannot be sent to the farm team without his consent), and the pitcher who has played for nine MLB teams may get a chance to make it 10.

Not a bad guy and not nearly as bad a pitcher as he was made out to be here; just one of those who somehow did not fit the mold of being successful in making the transition from baseball to yakyu. Too bad.

Thanks to all who attended Diamondbacks Day at Tokyo Dome on April 17.

Yes, that was yours truly out there throwing the shikyushiki (first pitch) to Rakuten Eagles leadoff batter Koichi Isobe.

The Nippon Ham Fighters invited me to toss the ceremonial first pitch in commemoration of 30 years of publication of my media guide and also for coordinating the D-Backs Day and its predecessor, Yankees Day, for 25 years, during which time I sent numerous company presidents, sponsors’ representatives, American children and even a Miss Guam to the mound to toss the first ball.

What did it feel like to be out on the hill in front of 20,115 fans, making my “major league debut”?

Everything seemed kind of blurry. It was as if I was in a fishbowl; the scene appeared round and magnified, with Isobe and Shinji Takahashi, the Fighters catcher, closer than they actually were.

I recall bending down to touch the rosin bag, then waiting semi-nervously for the home plate umpire to call “Play Ball!”

Fernando Seguignol, the Fighters first baseman, yelled toward me. I turned and thought I heard him say something like, “What is this? Now we have the media starting games for us?”

I was about to holler back, “Yeah, so let’s see some defense out here,” but the ump gave me the signal, and I went into a semi-windup, Tom Seaver-style, and let the ball fly.

It went straight but got to Takahashi on a short-hop, as evidenced by a brown spot on the ball, just over the “Approved by NPB Commissioner” stamp, where it hit the dirt.

Isobe took the usual courtesy swing-and-miss, and I trotted off the field, as Takahashi came halfway to the mound to give me the ball.

Nippon Ham manager Trey Hillman met me in front of the home team bench, shook my hand and congratulated me. I had told him earlier I would try to get the first out for him, and the Fighters went on to win, 7-2, but I could not get credit for the victory, as I did not go the mandatory five innings for starting pitchers.

The real starter, Itsuki Shoda, chalked up the win, but being out there before him was an experience I will not soon forget.

If you went to Diamondbacks Day and want to thank the Fighters for the free tickets, please send a brief note or post card to: Mr. Takeshi Kojima, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, 1 Hitsujigaoka, Toyohira-ku, Sapporo 062-8655. Thanks.

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