Tagged: pitcher

March 18 – Happy Birthday Tomokazu Ohka

OkazumaLong before the Red Sox had signed Dice K, they thought they had captured Japanese lightning in a bottle when they purchased this slender right-hander from the Yokahoma Bay Stars in 1999. He got off to an amazing start in Boston’s farm system, going a combined 15-0 with Double A Trenton and Triple A Pawtucket, which earned him three call-ups to Fenway during that 1999 season. He got his first big league win with a three-inning relief stint against the Orioles on October 1st of that year.

Still just 24-years-old, Ohka opened the 2000 season back in Pawtucket and stunk up the joint at first, losing his first four decisions. He heated up after that and also threw a perfect game, one of just three that have been pitched in the history of the International League. He also returned to the parent club for a lengthy stay and went 3-6 for Boston that year with a decent 3.12 ERA.

As the 2001 season opened, it was time for Ohka to prove he had the stuff to stick with the big boys. He was a member of Jimy Williams’s Red Sox rotation on Opening Day. Joining him in that rotation was his fellow countryman, Hideki Nomo, who had been signed as a free agent by Boston the previous December. The team was hoping Nomo could help Ohka make the jump. He could not. After 11 starts he was 2-5 with an ERA of 6.19 and at that year’s trading deadline he and left-hander Rich Rundles were shipped to the Expos for Closer Oogie Urbina.

Ohka would put together some decent seasons north of the border. His career year was 2002 when he went 13-8 and posted a 3.18 ERA. He kept pitching in the big leagues until 2009, finishing his career with a 51-68 lifetime record.