Nishinomiya, Hyogo Pref. – Hanshin Tigers pitching icon Kyuji Fujikawa brought down the curtain on his 22-year career Tuesday following his team’s 4-0 loss to Central League champions the Yomiuri Giants.
The 40-year-old reliever had aimed to retire at the end of the current coronavirus-interrupted season with at least 250 career saves across Japan and the majors but finished just short at 245.
“I’m able to quit with a sense of satisfaction. I have no regrets,” said Fujikawa, while addressing his teammates before the game at Koshien Stadium.
The right-hander made his final appearance in the top of the ninth inning against Yomiuri. After emerging from the bullpen to huge cheers, he thrilled the home fans by striking out his first batter, Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto.
He struck out the next man up, pinch-hitter Hiroyuki Nakajima, to even louder cheers before receiving a standing ovation when Shinnosuke Shigenobu flied out to end the inning.
The right-hander finished with 1,220 strikeouts and 243 saves over two stints with the Tigers. He led the Central League in saves twice, in 2007 and 2011.
His two big league saves came during a stint with the Chicago Cubs in 2013. But his time in the majors was cut short by elbow problems requiring Tommy John surgery. He pitched in just 29 games over three seasons before returning to Japan.
Fujikawa spent time in 2015 in the independent Shikoku Island League with the Kochi Fighting Dogs, based in his native Kochi Prefecture, before rejoining the Tigers the following year.
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