Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. – Veteran Hanshin Tigers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa said Tuesday he will continue his quest to record at least 250 career saves before he retires at the end of this year’s coronavirus-interrupted season.
“I’ve always played with that feeling in mind,” Fujikawa said at a press conference in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
“I still have two months. I’m fired up and will give it my best.”
With five saves to collect before the NPB season ends in November, the 40-year-old right-hander is aiming to join an elite group of pitchers with 250 saves across Japan and the major leagues.
The Tigers announced Monday that the nine-time All-Star will hang up his glove at the end of his 22nd professional season, in which he has gone 1-3 with two saves and a 7.20 ERA in 11 games so far.
Years of deterioration in his pitching arm forced Fujikawa to announce his intention to retire with the elite milestone within touching distance. He is currently tuning up with Hanshin’s farm team and is expected to rejoin the top team soon.
During his first stint with the Tigers between 2000 and 2012, Fujikawa racked up 220 saves and led the Central League in saves twice, in 2007 and 2011.
He moved to the majors with the Chicago Cubs in 2013, but underwent Tommy John surgery on his elbow later that year and only pitched in 29 games over three seasons while posting just two saves before returning to Japan.
A native of Shikoku island’s Kochi Prefecture, Fujikawa spent some time in 2015 reconnecting with his roots with the Kochi Fighting Dogs in the independent Shikoku Island League.
He returned to the Tigers in 2016 and earned 16 saves in 56 appearances for the club last season, when they finished third in the Central League.