You read this past week where the Yomiuri Giants have decided to clean house regarding their foreign players, releasing outfielder Tuffy Rhodes and pitchers Brian Sikorski, Scott Mullen and J.B. Miadich.
The dropping of Rhodes, Mullen and Miadich had been expected, but the Sikorski transaction is difficult to understand.
The workhorse middle reliever made 70 appearances in 2005, compiling a 7-1 record with a 3.29 ERA. Brian is only 31 but has already played five seasons in Japan; three (2001-2003) with the Chiba Lotte Marines and the last two with the Giants.
He was one of Yomiuri’s best pitchers this season, winning only two fewer games than staff ace Koji Uehara (9-12) and racking up a winning percentage of .825.
Sikorski was also a Tokyo Dome fan favorite who excited the Yomiuri faithful each time he ran full speed from the dugout to the pitcher’s mound, “flying” over the first-base foul line and man-handling the resin bag before going into his “propeller” warmup, cranking his arm wildly with his shoulder serving as the rotary hub.
The crowd roared as the stadium control room board operators played a kind of a whirlybird sound effect while Sikorski’s right arm was wind-milling the infield.
Home plate umpires even picked up on Brian’s trademark, signaling to the P.A. announcer with an arm-spinning motion whenever the fireballing right-hander was being brought into a game.
Sikorski said he developed the loosening-up technique during his high school days in Michigan.
“It was cold in the early spring when we began practicing,” he said, “so I started to do that to get warm quickly,” something he needed to do especially when he started a game at shortstop and was suddenly called in to pitch with no time to heat up except for a few tosses from the mound.
The former Texas Rangers hurler had hoped to continue entertaining the Japanese fans with his warmup routine and his excellent pitching, but it won’t be for the Giants.
Other Central and Pacific League clubs would be wise to consider adding Sikorski to their rosters for 2006 and would be getting a guy with vast Japan experience, a 151-kph fastball, excellent control and durability; one who loves to please the ticket-buyers by signing pre-game autographs and starting the arm crank after toeing the rubber.
If another team here wisely decides to offer battlin’ Brian a contract, he would be the first foreigner to play for three Japanese clubs since Leon Lee joined the Yakult Swallows in 1986, after having had stints with the Lotte Orions and Yokohama Taiyo Whales.
The same would be true if some team picks up Rhodes who played eight years with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and two for the Giants.
Sikorski says he would be happy to serve in any pitching role, as a starter or closer (duties he performed for Lotte), middle reliever or set-up man.
“Just give me the ball,” is all he asks.
Meanwhile, the Hochi newspaper, sports affiliate of the Yomiuri Shimbun, reported the Giants may be looking to replenish their gaikokujin roster by possibly signing 28-year-old right-hander Gary Glover, the winner of 21 major league games over a six-year career with the Blue Jays, White Sox, Angels and Brewers.
Also, the Nikkan Sports reported the Kyojin and returning (after a two-year absence) manager Tatsunori Hara have looked at another righty moundsman in their fall camp in Miyazaki, south Kyushu.
Dominican Manny Aybar was given a tryout last week. Aybar is 33-year-old Dominican who has appeared in 208 major league games, posting a 17-18 record with the Cardinals, Rockies, Reds. Marlins, Cubs and Giants.
Aybar is said to resemble his countryman, Balvino Galvez who pitched for Yomiuri from 1996 to 2000, both in facial features and pitching delivery.
Galvez led the Central League with 16 victories in 1996 but was suspended for half a season in 1998 after throwing a ball at umpire Atsushi Kittaka in a fit of anger one hot summer night at Koshien Stadium.
There is also a rumor the Giants may move to re-acquire slugger Roberto Petagine who played 1999-2002 with Yakult and 2003-2004 with Yomiuri.
Peta played for the Boston Red Sox this season, and the problem during his two years with Yomiuri was that he had no position to play. But, now that first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara has been released, Hara and company need somebody to fill that role, and Petagine, 34, could be the guy.
While playing for the Swallows, Roberto won the CL home run derby with 44 in 1999 and 39 in 2001 when he also won the league RBI title after driving in 127 runs, and Yakult won the Japan Series.
We’ll see what the Giants do with regard to foreign players for the 2006 season after having such bad luck in 2005, especially with closer Dan Miceli and outfielder Gabe Kapler.
As for the Sikorski situation, though, it is a big mystery as to why the propeller will no longer spin for Yomiuri.
My thanks to Paul Guilfoile and the nice folks at Kirin-Tropicana for sponsoring this week’s column, and please note the new e-mail designation below if you wish to correspond or run your ad with the column.
Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com
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