Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks star reliever Dennis Sarfate has played in his last game, according to a post on his Facebook page.
The reliever, 39, who returned to the U.S. Friday, revealed he will need hip replacement surgery and doesn't expect to play again.
He later said, however, he isn’t retiring.
“I am not retiring but focused on the surgery and trying to get through that first,” he said in a Facebook message.
Called the “King of Closers” in Fukuoka, the Queens, New York, native spent most of his NPB career as one of Japan’s premier arms out of the bullpen.
His 234 saves are the most by a foreign player and fifth-most all time in NPB. Among active players, he’s second only to the Hanshin Tigers’ Kyuji Fujikawa, who has 243.
“I’m almost 40 and got to play a game for a very long time, and get paid to do it,” the Facebook post read. “I had the best job. Now God has better plans for me I guess. I am sad, shocked, nervous but most of all grateful.”
Sarfate only played in six games in 2018 before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. He didn’t make an appearance in 2019.
One of his most memorable moments in NPB came during Game 6 of the 2017 Japan Series.
Sarfate put up a scoreless ninth with his team trailing the Yokohama BayStars by a run. Then after a game-tying home run by Seiichi Uchikawa in the bottom half of the frame, Sarafate kept the BayStars off the scoreboard in the 10th and 11th innings. He earned the win after Keizo Kawashima’s title-clinching sayonara single in the bottom of the 11th. He was then named MVP of the Japan Series.
Sarfate was named 2017 Pacific League MVP a few weeks later, recognition for a regular season that saw him convert an NPB record 54 saves.
“I never expected it,” Sarfate said during his news conference after being named league MVP. “Seven years playing here, I never would’ve imagined a reliever, a closer would win the award.”
Sarfate joined the Hawks in 2014 and is in his sixth season with the team. Before moving to Fukuoka, he pitched for the Hiroshima Carp in 2011 and 2012 and the Seibu Lions in 2013.
He played one season each for the Milwaukee Brewers and Houston Astros in MLB and spent two with the Baltimore Orioles.