January 9, 2002
Call him a Japanese David Wells or a rotund Hideo Nomo, but we’ll likely be calling Kazuhisa Ishii a major leaguer next year.
The Yakult Swallows of the Japanese Central League have accepted the highest bid, submitted by the Los Angeles Dodgers, for the negotiating rights to the 28-year-old lefthander.
The Dodgers have 30 days, or until midnight on Feb. 8, to sign Ishii. The Dodgers’ bid was reported to be between $11.2 and $11.3 million.
The Seattle Mariners paid $13,125,000 to the Orix BlueWave of Japan’s Pacific League for the rights to Ichiro Suzuki before the 2001 season.
Ishii speaks fluent English and looks like a No. 3 or 4 starter, thanks to an above-average fastball and an assortment of strong breaking pitches, including a forkball. Pudgy and somewhat eccentric like Wells, he went 12-6, 3.37 this season with 151 strikeouts and 63 walks in 171 innings. Last year he led the Central League with 210 strikeouts in 183 innings and a 2.60 ERA.
“Our scouts have been watching Ishii pitch in Japan and we have had strong interest in acquiring him,” Dodgers general manager Dan Evans said. “He is a veteran lefthander with superb talent and playoff experience. We were pleased to learn that he commented publicly about his desire to play for the Dodgers. he would be a great addition to our rotation.”
One AL scout says Ishii has had persistent shoulder trouble and often tries to get six days’ rest between starts. “He’ll have to pass a physical, and I’m not sure he’ll do that,” the scout says.
Another claims a pitching coach will have to tinker with Ishii’s finger pressure on his fastball to get more movement.
More scouting reports
There are a lot of quality pitchers in Japan, but along with Daisuke Matsuzaka he’s right at the top of the class. He should be able to do quite well at the major league level.
John Cox, who scouts Japan for the Yankees
The combination of that fastball and his slider is really good. He’s definitely going to make an impact in the major leagues.
Phillies international scout Doug Tamagawa
Among the scouts, we think he can win 10 games or better, but he could also lose a similar number.
Braves international scout Hiroyuki Ohya
Contributing: Alan Schwarz, Gary Garland.