• Kyodo

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Nearly 10 years after he was taken in the first round of Japan’s amateur draft, Toru Murata earned his first win in top-flight pro ball on Sunday.

Murata, who turned 32 last month, stood on the Sapporo Dome hero’s podium after the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters beat his first pro team, the Yomiuri Giants, 5-1 in interleague play.

“I got here thanks to the support of many people,” Murata said. “Thank you very much.”

Murata was making his fifth start for the Pacific League’s Fighters, whom he joined after spending six seasons in the Cleveland Indians’ organization. Before that he pitched three seasons in Japan’s Eastern League, going 2-10 for the Giants’ farm team.

After his release by Yomiuri in 2010, Murata was keen to keep going. After failing to catch on with any of Nippon Professional Baseball’s 12 teams, he was signed to a minor league deal by Cleveland. In the minors, he worked his way up through the system, enduring brutal travel schedules and learning to overcome the language barrier.

His high point came in 2015, when Murata made his lone major league start with the Indians and went 15-4 for Triple-A Columbus, leading the International League in wins.

“The foundation needed to win was laid as a pro, and I wanted to get a good result and then show my appreciation,” he said.

Working carefully on both sides of the plate with the two-seam fastball he picked up in the United States, Murata pitched to contact, allowing a run on six hits over five innings. He hit a batter and struck out two.

“I’m still only lasting a few innings,” he said. “Because everyone helped me out, I want to be able to deliver the pitching that will carry the team.”

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