Baseball / Japanese Baseball | NPB NOTEBOOK

Falkenborg feels right at home with Hawks

by Jason Coskrey

Staff Writer

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks reliever Brian Falkenborg raised a few eyebrows with his performance on the mound last season. And not just in Japan.

The 200-cm right-hander caught the attention of a few major league clubs after making 60 appearances for the Hawks and posting a 1.02 ERA with 39 holds.

After going over his options with his family, Falkenborg came to the decision that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Much to the relief of his growing fanbase in Fukuoka.

“You gotta play where you’re comfortable,” Falkenborg said on Thursday. “I’ve had success here and kind of made a name for myself here. If I were to go back to the States, I’d have to start all over again.

“Softbank’s where we want to be and we just decided we’d really like to come back. The team was very fair and we were able to get a deal done.”

Falkenborg made 64 appearances in the majors from 1999-2008, the last coming as a member of the San Diego Padres.

He had a strong debut season for the Hawks in 2009, recording 39 holds and a 1.74 ERA in 51⅔ innings.

He was even better last year, making it onto the Pacific League All-Star team, and the Hawks are counting on more of the same this season.

“My goal has never been about my personal numbers,” Falkenborg said. “I just try to help the team win as many game as possible. I know if the team plays well, my numbers will take care of themselves.”

Now that Tadashi Settsu has made the move to the starting rotation, Falkenborg figures to play an even more important role alongside fellow reliever Masahiko Morifuku and closer Takahiro Mahara.

“If the team is in first and winning a lot of games, then I’m, going to be pitching in a lot of games that we’re winning and helping the team out,” Falkenborg said. “Holds and ERA really doesn’t matter to me as much as long as I’m helping the team win games.”

Ace of aces: Hokkaido Nippon Ham pitcher Yu Darvish continued his recovery from a season-opening loss with a four-hit shutout of the Chunichi Dragons on May 25 in Nagoya.

Since allowing seven runs in a loss to the Seibu Lions to open the year, Darvish has been unbeatable and nearly unhittable.

In his six starts since April, 12, Darvish is 6-0, including a pair of shutouts. He’s allowed four earned runs over that span and has currently gone 26 innings without allowing a run.

Darvish’s ERA over the past six games is a microscopic 0.71 and the right-hander has racked up 56 strikeouts.

Fashion first: As the NPB begins to get into the meat of the schedule, many teams have begun to unveil throwback uniforms to celebrate their history.

Recent examples include the Hanshin Tigers donning their old-style all-black uniforms and the Orix Buffaloes going back in time by wearing Hankyu Braves uniforms.

Unfortunately the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were founded in 2005, and their basic getup hasn’t really changed much over the last six years.

So without a much of a past to honor, the Eagles seemingly decided to celebrate the glory days of the 1980s Houston Astros, wearing rainbow-colored uniforms — that looked very much like the ones the Astros used to wear — for their weekend series against the Tigers in Sendai.