NAGOYA - Chunichi Dragons reliever Takuya Asao, an unprecedented choice for Central League MVP as a set-up man, announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the season.
“I have no regrets,” he told a press conference at Nagoya Dome. “I have enjoyed a joyful career.”
The 33-year-old right-hander was Japan’s premier middle reliever in 2010 and 2011. Asao is the only pitcher to win an MVP award as neither a starter nor closer. In 2010, he set the current record for holds with 47, while winning 12 games and saving one. The following season, Asao had 45 holds, seven wins, 10 saves and a 0.41 ERA.
The Dragons won back-to-back CL pennants in those two years for the first time in club history. In 2010, Asao was runner-up for MVP to teammate Kazuhiro Wada. In 2011, he edged out Dragons ace, Kazuki Yoshimi, 1,019 points to 825. Asao also won the Golden Glove that season.
He remained effective for the next two seasons despite appearing in fewer than half as many games. The past four seasons, however, have seen him struggle with injuries to his right shoulder. He failed to pitch in a single game in 2016, and through Tuesday has appeared in just 13 games over the past two seasons.
“For the past three or four years, I have been conflicted as I continued playing,” Asao said. “Because I am here, I am lessening the chances young players can get.”