Baseball / Japanese Baseball

NPB career saves leader Hitoki Iwase set to retire

Kyodo

Chunichi Dragons left-hander Hitoki Iwase, will retire at the end of the season along with veteran second baseman Masahiro Araki, an informed source said Wednesday.

The news comes hours after Chunichi’s 2011 Central League MVP Takuya Asao announced this season would also be his last.

Iwase, a 43-year-old in his 20th pro season, is currently the oldest player in NPB. His 406 career saves are the most in NPB history.

Araki won six straight Golden Gloves at second base from 2004 when the Dragons won the first of their four CL pennants under manager Hiromitsu Ochiai. Araki, a three-time winner of the CL Best Nine Award at second base, has compiled 2,041 career hits.

Asao joined the Dragons in 2007 and quickly became a force, working the eighth inning before Iwase came in as the team’s closer. Asao was Japan’s most dominant middle reliever in 2009 and 2010, when the Dragons won back-to-back league titles for the first time in franchise history.

“I have no regrets,” he told a news conference at Nagoya Dome. “I have enjoyed a joyful career.”