Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who came back from an elbow injury to put on a dominant pitching performance this year, won the Sawamura Award for the first time Monday to become the first Rakuten player to earn the honor.

Iwakuma was unanimously picked by the selection panel for the award, given to the most outstanding pitcher in Japanese baseball, after finishing the regular season with the league's best marks of 21 wins, a 1.87 earned run average and an .840 winning percentage.

Iwakuma was the first pitcher to win 21 games in either the Central League or Pacific League since Yoshinori Sato posted the same number of wins with the 1985 Hankyu Braves. The 27-year-old also had 159 strikeouts over 201 2/3 innings in 28 outings, which included five complete games.

"I'm honored to win this best award for pitchers and I didn't think I would be picked for it," Iwakuma said. "This is the best year so far in my career."