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01/05/2003 Archived Entry: "Japanese Baseball News: Hodges Signed With Twins, Dimming Swallows Pennant Hopes"

17 Game Winner Makes Strange Decision

In a startling development, Yakult Swallows righthander Kevin Hodges has apparently signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins, brushing aside what was reported to be a near million dollar pact with the Tokyo squad. What's even more amazing is that this apparently wasn't picked up by the Japanese press at all despite his defection to MLB taking place on or around November 15th.. In fact, reports in Japan had indicated that Hodges would once again be at the center of the diamond at Meiji Jingu Stadium, but something obviously happened between the two sides.

To be sure, one can't see how this works for Kevin either financially or careerwise. He had a sure high six figures salary with Yakult and a chance to enhance his reputation as one of the best pitchers in the league again, but instead chose to accept a contract where he would just be another journeyman hoping to cadge a job in the American midwest for next to nothing.

I only found out about all this thanks to a head's up from a Twins fan I received today and I verified it with a buddy in the baseball media. Furthermore, there has been no talk of Yakult seeking another foreign hurler to supplant the ex-Mariner despite the fact that Kevin tied Sawamura Award winner Koji Uehara in victories last season with 17. This leaves a monstrous hole in the club's rotation and calls into question whether the team has a real shot at the Central League pennant next season. For us Swallows faithful, this is a glum beginning to the New Year indeed.

Hot Shots....

The Daiei Hawks have finished their contract negotiations with their players and managed to bring everyone in for $4 million less for the coiming season than they laid out for the past one....Hideki Matsui says that when he slugs his first homer as a Yankee, he will send a kiss to the home folks back in Neagari-cho, Ishikawa Prefecture. More than 3,000 turned out for a local event that featured Godzilla in that enclave of 16,000.... Yomiuri great Kimiyasu Kudoh fasted for two days this week, he says, in order to clean his system out as he prepares for the 2003 schedule.... While on vacation on Australia's Gold Coast, Hanshin boss Senichi Hoshino indicated that his club will be trying to take the extra base on new Giants rightfielder Roberto Petagine until the ex-Red proves that he can throw them out. The fiery field boss then went over to a condo owned by Japanese comedian Akashiya Sanma for a party, where he and the entertainer made a wager on how the Tigers will do next time around. If the Osaka side wins it all, Sanma will participate in the victory parade. If Hanshin finishes lower than third, though, Hoshino has to appear on Sanma's tv show. Toward accomplishing a Japan Series bid, Hoshino wants lefthander Trey Moore to add a forkball and he will have Hall of Fame inductee Shigeru Sugishita tutor him on that pitch....Hanshin Rookie Lin Wei-shu, who has some major pop in his bat, says that he will concentrate on posting a good average in his first year due to the high level of pitching in the pros. He is also working on his mental preparation since he tends to get down on himself when things aren't going well....Hiroshima shot caller Koji Yamamoto is also there with his family....Sankei Sports stat of the day: Chunichi Dragons shortstop Hirokazu Ibata has lived off of Yomiuri ace Koji Uehara to the tune of a .344 lifetime average. However, his team is only 3-13 against the righthander.... Seibu leftfielder Kazuhiro Wada, who is single and wants to get married, has proposed that his club hold an "omiai (marriage meeting)" event to try to boost female fan attendance and to make it easier for players to find mates. On the team's victory tour, Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi needled the outfielder about his still being a free agent in the romance department....Kintetsu batting coach Kozo Shoda indicated that rightfielder Koichi Isobe is likely to be the focus of more attention during spring training, as he noted that when the strike zone rules changed, Isobe, who lead the Pacific League in average with runners in scoring position in 2001 with a .417, saw that plummet to .270 last year. Shoda was a two time batting champ during his playing days with Hiroshima, racking up four straight .300 campaigns at one point.... The Chicago White Sox have signed former Daiei pitcher Tetsu Yofu, who toiled in the Taiwanese league last season, to a minor league contract....Nippon Ham manager Trey Hillman, in part of a campaign to bring the club more favorable publicity over the course of next season, will stage a barbecue for members of the press at a resort hotel during his team's spring training camp in Nago, Okinawa in February. The former Yankee minor league helmsman spent the days leading up to the Christmas holidays thoroughly going over player personnel and instructional matters with his coaches. If anything, at least the Fighters will be a well prepared bunch when they start counting ....Lotte skipper Koji Yamamoto revealed to the press that one thing he will be focusing on in 2003 is his team's performance on Saturdays as well as day games following night games. In 2002, the Chiba contingent was 10-17 on Saturdays and 3-7 after night games. Consequently, they may hold workouts after Friday night games to encourage the players to go to sleep earlier. Yamamoto has also ordered that players stop smoking once they report for spring training, especially during games and to that end has done away with an ashtray in the team's dugout. This is maybe another sign that the anti-smoking movement is finally getting traction in Japan. Last year, Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo banned all outdoor puffing and one is no longer allowed to suck cancer sticks on commuter trains....Chunichi Dragons third baseman Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, who played with Tigers third baseman Atsushi Kataoka at PL Gakuen High School, said that his old teammate will rebound from a disastrous 2002 showing. Tatsunami, who was instructing 200 little leaguers at a baseball clinic when he said this, commented that "he isn't the kind of guy to go out on such a bad note." Kataoaka continues to tinker with his mechanics in hopes of proving Tatsunami correct.... Norihiro Nakamura, who got in some running and played catch with teammate Kenshi Kawaguchi, stated that "I want to be like [Shigeo] Nagashima." By that, he means being the face of Japanese baseball. He offered that "[Sadaharu] Oh and Nagashima built Japanese made Japanese baseball what it is today" and now he wants to to carry on that banner for his sport.....Ichiro worked out at Orix' training facility in Kobe today and averred that "if each country could send their best players, I would like to participate" in the Athens Olympics. He has said in the past that he feels that he already faces the best day in and day out in MLB and therefore isn't as obsessed with olympic glory as many other Japanese players.

Quote of the Day

This comes out of the Seattle Times:

Chad Finn of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, after a baseball scout said Hideki "Godzilla" Matsui, the Yankees' new slugger, reminds him of former Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell: "Is 'Matsui' the Japanese word for 'warning-track power'?"


I would like to take this chance to apologize to the front office of the Boston Red Sox. In an earlier article, I had pondered whether a Sox official talking Brian Daubach out of going to Japan this offseason and then non-tendering him was dishonest and actionable. However, a reader wrote in to let me know that Daubach had considered going over FOUR YEARS AGO and that is when he was talked out of leaving and not this winter, as I had misapprehended. I regret the error and will try to be more careful in the future.

Replies: 1 Comment

Nice to see you back! Will any of the NPB or KBO teams have spring practice in Arizona, Florida, or Hawaii this year?

Posted by Robert Kiyoshi Shadlow @ 01/05/2003 09:57 PM EST

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