NAGOYA – Chunichi Dragons right-hander Kenshin Kawakami, the 2004 Sawamura Award winner and Central League MVP, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
“I still wanted to play a few years,” the 40-year-old Kawakami told a news conference. “I know I’m close to my limits, but I wanted to go beyond them.”
Formerly the team’s ace, Kawakami spent three seasons in the United States, but injuries had limited his playing time and his results since he returned in 2012. A year after his return, the Dragons informed Kawakami that he would be cut, but decided instead to offer him a two-year contract. He started on Opening Day in 2014, but lower-back pain limited him to a 1-2 record in six games.
This year he suffered from right shoulder and knee issues and didn’t pitch at all. In September, he underwent shoulder surgery and is currently rehabilitating in Nagoya.
“If I am able to throw again, I want to try out for the Dragons,” he said. “I want to see what it’s like to have a fourth press conference announcing my signing as a new team member.”
Kawakami was the Dragons’ first-round draft pick in 1997, and was the CL’s rookie of the year in 1998. In 2004, when the Dragons won the pennant, Kawakami led the league with 17 wins and won the first of his three Golden Gloves. In 2006, he led the league in wins and strikeouts as Chunichi returned to the Japan Series.
Barring a comeback, Kawakami will wrap up his career with 117 wins, 76 losses, one save and a 3.24 ERA. He posted an 8-22 mark with one save in the major leagues with the Atlanta Braves.