Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Kyuji Fujikawa

Continuing with the retirement posts...

Kyuji Fujikawa was the first pick of the Hanshin Tigers in the 1998 draft out of Kochi Commercial High School.  He debuted with the top team in early 2000 as a middle reliever.  The Tigers tried him out as a starter in 2002 and he went 1-5 with a 3.71 ERA which pretty much ended that experiment.  He made two starts in 2003 but spent the rest of his career working out of the bullpen.

He had bounced back and forth between the top team and the farm team before cementing himself with the ichi-gun bullpen in the second half of 2004.  In 2005 he was the "F" in the Tigers "JFK" bullpen (with "J" being Jeff Williams and "K" being closer Tomoyuki Kubota.  He set the NPB record for most pitching appearances in a season with 80 that year although Kubota has since broken the record.  He took over as Hanshin's closer the next year when Kubota got injured and tied the record for most saves in a season in 2007 with 46 (which has since been passed by Dennis Sarfate but Fujikawa holds the Central League record with Hitoki Iwase).  

He remained the Tigers' closer for the next few years until he left Japan as an international free agent and signed a two year deal with the Chicago Cubs.  Those two years did not go well - he injured his arm in April of 2013 and once he recovered from that injury he hurt his elbow, requiring Tommy John surgery.  He returned to the mound in late 2014 but the Cubs did not pick up his option for a third season.  The Rangers signed him for 2015 but he didn't pitch very well for them and was released in May.  He spent the remainder of the season playing for his hometown team, the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League.

He returned to the Tigers for the 2016 season and was a mainstay out of their bullpen for several seasons afterwards.  He regained the closer role for the second half of the 2019 season and started the 2020 season in that role but didn't pitch well and was eventually sent down to the farm team.  He announced his retirement at the end of August.  

He led the Central League in holds twice (2005 & 2006) and saves twice (2007 & 2011) and made the All Star team nine times (2005-12 and 2019).  He pitched in one Nippon Series in 2005 as the Tigers were swept by the Marines in four games.  He pitched for the Japanese National Team in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

His rookie card is #392 from the 1999 BBM set but his only BBM flagship appearance over the next three years was in the 2001 set.  He was in at least one of BBM's flagship sets each year for the rest of his career, however, with the exception of the three years he played in MLB and, for some odd reason, 2018.  His first Calbee card was not until the 2005 Series Three set (#213).  Here's a bunch of his cards:

1999 BBM #392

2001 BBM Tigers #T14

2005 BBM Nippon Series #30

2006 BBM All Stars #A36

2008 BBM 1st Version #455

2009 Bowman Chrome #BCW39

2011 Konami Baseball Heroes ShineStar Opening Version Black #B11RB145

2012 SCM #199

2016 Calbee #053

2018 BBM Tigers #T09

2020 Epoch NPB #295

1 comment:

P-town Tom said...

I actually have a few of the cards you showed... I was always bummer Fujikawa never panned out for the Cubs.