20 April, 2006

MLB debut - Kenji Johjima

Ok, I think Seattle's latest Japanese import Kenji Johjima is the last of the opening day debuts on Donutball's list.

Johjima, after a 9 year all-star career with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Japanese Pacific League, signed a three year deal with the Mariners back on 22 November 2005. Seattle beat out 5 other MLB teams for Johjima who had expressed a desire to test his skill in the US after his highly successful Japanese career. Apart from a .299 career average, he won 7 gold gloves at catcher and was on the 2004 Japanese Olympic team. Of course, he joins fellow countryman centerfielder Ichiro Suzuki and a club with strong Japanese ties.

Johjima will add pop to Seattle's lineup. In 2005 he hit .309 with 24 home runs. His season ended early when he broke his left tibia on 22 September. Aside from the hitting side of things, there's a possible question about his ability to handle the M's pitching staff given the language barrier. Non-English speaking catchers (or pitchers, for that matter) are not a novelty so perhaps the effect is over emphasised, but the spotlight will fall on Kenji if Seattle hurlers struggle.

Seattle opened the season at home to the Los Angeles Angels on 3 April. Kenji batted 7th went 1 for 3 and belted his first MLB homer, a one out solo shot off Angel ace Bartolo Colon in the 5th. He was also hit by a pitch, not for the first time in his career as he broke Ichiro's record with 22 in 2004. Alas, it was a losing effort as the Haloes won 5-4.

Baseball Cube


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