The closer Kazuhiro Sasaki is from Sendai City, Japan and played college baseball at Tohoku Fukushi University. He ended up being the 7th overall pick of the 1989 draft in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. He played for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales and the Yokohama BayStars from 1990-1999 and 2004-2005. Sasaki dominated with his dropping split-fingered fastball, followed by his 4 seamer in the low 90′s. In 1997 Sasaki had a .90 ERA and 38 saves. And he followed that year with a .64 ERA and 45 saves. He was big league ready.
Sasaki joined the Mariners in 2000. Seattle’s bullpen ran deep with Jeff Nelson, Arthur Rhodes, and Jose Mesa. In 2000 Sasaki took over at closer for Jose Mesa, and Kazuhiro went 2-5 with a 3.16 ERA and 37 saves which was a record for a rookie at the time (Neftali Perez had a 40 save rookie season in 2010). His stats earned him 2000 AL Rookie Of The Year honors. In 2001 the 6-4 220 closer became an All-Star and tied his career high with 45 saves (set career high for MLB).
In 2002 Sasaki was selected to the All Star Team again, and set an MLB career high with a 2.52 ERA, he also had 27 saves. In 2003 he struggled and only had 10 saves. The next year he opted out of his contract to play in Japan again (he was going to get 8 mil that year). Sasaki went back to the BayStars and retired in 2005.
His career Japan stats are 627 2/3 IP with 43-38 record ,252 saves, 851 K’s, and a 2.41 ERA. In his MLB career he threw 223 1/3 innings with a 7-16 record, 129 saves, 242 K’s, and a 3.14 ERA.
In the MLB he made around 13 million.
But if you don’t remember him from MLB you might recognize him from Iron Chef when he was a guest judge (no joke).
Can Yu Darvish come to the MLB already?!?