Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. – Veteran Hanshin Tigers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa will retire at the end of this season, the Central League club announced Monday.
The 40-year-old right-hander, known for one of the most high-velocity fastballs in Japanese baseball, has 245 saves in a 22-year career spanning Nippon Professional Baseball and MLB.
While injuries have made it difficult to continue playing, Fujikawa hopes to join the elite handful of pitchers with 250 saves across Japan and the big leagues.
Drafted with the top pick by the Tigers out of high school in 1999, Fujikawa became renowned for his explosive “fireball” four-seam fastball.
After two straight seasons as the CL’s top setup reliever, he was named most valuable closer in 2007, when he led the league with 46 saves. He also topped the CL with 41 saves in 2011.
He moved to the majors in 2013, but his stint there with the Chicago Cubs, and later the Texas Rangers, was curtailed by an elbow injury.
He returned to Japan in mid-2015 following surgery on his elbow and played independent league baseball before making a comeback with Hanshin in 2016.
Fujikawa has played 11 games this season, going 1-3 with a pair of saves.