Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Dragons closer Hitoki Iwase formally announces plan to retire after season

Kyodo

NPB career saves leader Hitoki Iwase, who also holds the all-time record for games pitched, announced his retirement at the end of theseason at Nagoya Dome on Tuesday.

The 43-year-old, who has 407 saves in 1,001 game appearances, appeared in his blue and white jersey and revealed in a news conference that he is sticking to his word by hanging up his cleats after 20 seasons with the Chunichi Dragons.

“I said last year when signing my contract that I would retire if my stats for this year weren’t better, and since they’re not, I’ve decided to quit before I cause more trouble,” Iwase said.

“I’m most proud of myself for being able to pitch in 50-plus games for 15 straight years.”

The left-hander pitched in 47 games this season, making an unprecedented 1,000th mound appearance on Sept. 28 against the Hanshin Tigers at home.

A five-time Central League saves leader and winner of three Most Valuable Relief Pitcher awards, Iwase pitched in 50 or more games for 15 consecutive years since his rookie season with the Dragons in 1999.

Iwase joined Chunichi as a second-round draft pick. The 10-time All-Star went on to set an NPB record by reaching the 40-save milestone three years in a row from 2005 to 2007. Between 2005 and 2013, he recorded at least 30 saves every year.