The Central League Pitcher of the Month Award continued to be a surprise following Friday’s announcement of the Chunichi Dragons’ Hitoki Iwase as the winner for June.

Selectors generally hand the honor to a starting pitcher with three or more wins, fewer than two losses and a low ERA, but defied that norm by picking Iwase, a middle reliever with 10 holds, one win and one save.

“It feels like someone’s kidding me,” said Iwase, who previously won in April 2005. “Because it’s something that pretty much never goes to a reliever, so I’m pretty pleased about this.”

Last month the CL honored Yomiuri Giants star Tomoyuki Sugano, despite his winning only two games. Typically a reliever is selected only when no starter is suitably qualified. Last month, David Buchanan of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows went 3-0 with a shutout and a 2.25 ERA and 22 strikeouts over 32 innings, but the nod went to Iwase.

The 42-year-old lefty, Japan’s all-time saves leader, recorded his first save in three seasons. He struck out 11 batters and allowed no runs in 11 2/3 innings.

June’s other awards went to Hiroshima Carp center fielder Yoshihiro Maru as CL player of the month. Seibu Lions right-hander Ken Togame was named the Pacific League’s top pitcher, while SoftBank Hawks center fielder Yuki Yanagita was the PL’s top position player.

Maru led the CL with a .402 batting average while driving in a league high 22 runs. Togame had Buchanan-like numbers, with a 3-0 record and 18 strikeouts and a 3.09 ERA over 23 1/3 innings.

Yanagita was almost overqualified for the award, batting .363 while leading the PL with 22 runs, 12 home runs and 31 RBIs.

It was the first award for both Maru and Togame, while it was Yanagita’s fourth selection.

Iwase is the first player to win monthly awards 12 years apart.

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