YOKOHAMA – Yokohama BayStars left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo has a dream of playing in the major leagues, and the club isn’t going to stand in his way.
Tsutsugo went public with his desire late last year, and the club has given its blessing and will make him available via the posting system, general manager Kazuaki Mihara said Monday night. The announcement came shortly after the team’s 2-1 loss in Game 3 of the Central League Climax Series first stage, which knocked Yokohama out of the postseason.
“Playing in the majors has been his dream since he was little and we want to cheer him on,” Mihara said.
Tsutsugo, who will turn 28 in November, was chosen in the first round of the 2009 draft and is among the top players in Japanese baseball.
“We’re not only losing Tsutsugo, we’re losing the captain of the team,” BayStars manager Alex Ramirez said. “It’s a lot that he brings to the table. To be able to replace Tsutsugo is going to be very, very hard.”
Tsutsugo hit .272 with 29 home runs, 79 RBIs and a .899 on-base plus slugging percentage this season. He was 10th among NPB hitters with a .391 weighted on-base average, per the website DeltaGraphs.
He was taken off the roster — for the first time in three years — during the final week of the season after being hit with a pitch on his left hand. He returned for the playoffs and homered in the first two games of the Climax Series.
Tsutsugo, who attended Yokohama High School, has a .285 career average and 205 home runs from 2010-2019. He’s hit at least 22 homers in every season since 2014.
He won two-thirds of the CL Triple Crown in 2016, finishing with 44 home runs and 110 RBIs (he finished third in batting with a .322 average). He also led NPB with a 1.110 on-base plus slugging percentage.
Tsutsugo is a five-time All-Star and is a fan favorite in Yokohama. Earlier this year, he leant his influence to the issue of protecting the bodies of young baseball players on the amateur level in Japan.
“You can’t measure what he’s done as the captain,” Mihara said. “But you have to think of the life of a player, you want to use the time you have effectively.”
Tsutsugo’s departure will leave the BayStars will a big hole to fill.
“He’s not going to be here, we have to move on,” Ramirez said. “That’s part of life. He’s trying to follow his dreams and I believe that he will have a very good chance to fulfill his dreams.”
While Tsutsugo isn’t likely to be around next year, the BayStars announced Ramirez will be back for another year.
Team owner Tomoko Namba told reporters she’d spoken to the manager after Monday’s game and asked him to remain for another season. She also praised the team for overcoming a rough stretch early in the year to finish in second pace.
“She said that she would like to have me back one more year as kantoku (manager),” Ramirez said. “I really appreciate that and I said that I will try to make the best out of next year and be able to win the championship.”