Junichi Tazawa (田澤 純一 Tazawa Jun'ichi?, born June 6 1986 in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture) is a Japanese baseball pitcher for the Boston Red Sox organization. Tazawa was the MVP of the corporate league Intercity Championship in 2008, leading the team to the championship with a 4-0 record and 36 strikeouts. His Template:Convert/mph fastball attracted Major League Baseball scouts, and in September 2008, he announced that he would sign with a Major League team for the 2009 season, and would pursue a career in the United States without having pitched a single game in the Nippon Professional Baseball professional league.
After he finished his high school career in Yokohama, Tazawa was not drafted by any of Nippon Professional Baseball's 12 teams, and joined the company team of Nippon Oil in the corporate league, unaffiliated with the NPB.
In 2008, Tazawa posted a 10-1 record for Nippon Oil, with a 1.02 earned run average and 95 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings. In the national corporate league championships, Tazawa posted two straight shutouts, the second one a complete game on four hits, 10 strikeouts and zero walks in a 4-0 quarterfinal win over Hitachi, Ltd. He appeared less than 24 hours later in a relief appearance in the semifinal against Central Japan Railway. Tazawa pitched 2 and 2/3 innings, and allowed three hits, struck out one, and gave up the go-ahead run in a 3-2 loss.
Attempt at professional careerEdit
In September 2008, Tazawa announced his intention to skip the NPB draft in and to purse a career with a Major League team. During the 2008 season, his manager Hideaki Okubo encouraged him to attempt a career in Major League Baseball without first playing with a Nippon Professional Baseball team - if he joined a Japanese professional team, he would have to either wait 10 years to become a free agent, or hope that his team auction the right to negotiate with him through the posting system.
To avoid conflict between Japanese and U.S. teams, Tazawa asked NPB teams not to select him in the October 30 draft, and the 12 teams complied with the request. However, the teams passed a rule requiring any amateur player who signs overseas to sit out two to three years before he can join a Japanese team - high school players would have to sit two years, while college and corporate players three years. While Tazawa attracted attention of American scouts, NPB announced that the major leagues of two nations had a "gentleman's agreement" against signing Japanese amateurs, while general manager Brian Cashman, whose New York Yankees have a partnership agreement with Yomiuri Giants, said his team considered Tazawa "hands off". However, Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor and human resources denied that any gentleman's agreement was in place regarding the signing of Japanese amateur players. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein pointed out that there have been approximately 50 Japanese amateur players that in the past have signed with major league teams.
On December 4, 2008, Tazawa signed with the Boston Red Sox reportedly for $3 million over three years. If Tazawa plays at the Major League level, he would become the third Japanese player, after Mac Suzuki and Kazuhito Tadano, to do so without first playing professionally in Japan.
Tazawa will likely begin the year with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs, barring an impressive showing in Spring Training.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Allen, Jim. "Amateur Tazawa bypassing Japan leagues for MLB", ESPN.com, September 12, 2008.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "Hard-throwing righty Tazawa hopes to pitch in majors in 2009", ESPN.com, October 30, 2008.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Schwartz, Alan, Brad Lefton. "Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher", 'The New York Times', November 19, 2008.
- ↑ "Tazawa impresses MLB scouts", Associated Press, November 21 2008.
- ↑ "Tazawa's amateur season ends, set to begin full-fledged talks", Kyodo News, November 23 2008.
- ↑ Sean McAdam. "Signing stirs up ill will abroad", Boston Herald, 2008-12-05. Retrieved on 2008-12-05.
- ↑ Browne, Ian. "Tazawa officially in fold for Red Sox", MLB.com, December 4 2008.
- ↑ "BoSox finalize $3.3M deal with Japanese RHP Tazawa", Associated Press, December 4 2008.