Baseball / Japanese Baseball

Swallows set to release hard-throwing pitcher Yoshinori Sato

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows have decided to release right-hander Yoshinori Sato, once the fastest throwing pitcher in NPB, at the end of the season, club president Tsuyoshi Kinugasa said Tuesday.

Kinugasa told reporters Yakult did not have a choice as the 28-year-old, who was drafted as a first-round pick by the Tokyo club out of high school in 2007, refused to move to a non-player role after being limited to seven games in an injury-plagued season.

“It was a tough decision. We respected his decision to continue his playing career,” Kinugasa said.

Sato, who spent 11 seasons with the club, went 1-2 with a 4.46 ERA this year.

In 2010, Sato became the first Japanese to have a pitch clocked at 161 kph. He injured his right shoulder in 2011 and had surgery in 2013.

He made the starting rotation this season, but has not pitched since he left a game on June 2 complaining of pain in his throwing shoulder.

Sato has a career record of 32-36 in 90 games with a 3.66 ERA.