Hirotoshi Ishii

From BR Bullpen

Hirotoshi Ishii

BR minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Drafted by the Yakult Swallows in the 4th round of the 1995 NPB draft out of high school, Hirotoshi Ishii saw limited time in 1996-97 with Yakult. He went 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 14 games, spending most of his time at ni-gun. After missing 1998 with elbow problems, Ishii was 0-1 with a 6.28 ERA and 27 walks in 28 2/3 IP with the '99 Swallows. The team considered converting him to a position player that year due to his trouble on the mound. In 2000, the 22-year-old southpaw went 4-3, 3.30 as a solid member of the Yakult bullpen. The next season, Hirotoshi went 2-3 with one save and a 3.40 ERA; he struck out 40 in 39 2/3 IP but walked 23. He pitched one scoreless inning in the 2001 Japan Series. The 2002 campaign yielded results of 6-2, 1.51 with five saves as he became a star. He struck out 109 and walked only 12 in 89 2/3 innings as he and right-handed set-up man Ryota Igarashi both had far better years than closer Shingo Takatsu. He was named the Middle Reliever of the Year and his 69 appearances were both the most in the Central League and a Swallows franchise record, breaking the mark held by Masaichi Kaneda.

In 2003, Ishii remained dominant (6-1, 1 Sv, 1.99, 67 K and 10 BB in 45 1/3 IP). Ishii was on Japan's team in the 2003 Asian Championship; they won Gold. With Takatsu in the US in 2004, Igarashi became the closer. The Igarashi-Ishii combination became known as the "Rocket Boys" as they both threw in the mid-90s. Hirotoshi went 4-2 with five saves and a 2.05 ERA in a third straight fine year, though he struggled in the 2004 Olympics.

At age 27 in 2005, Ishii replaced the injured Igarashi at closer and remained in that role when Ryota returned. Hirotoshi was 4-3 with 37 saves and a 1.95 ERA, striking out 90 and allowing 15 walks and 51 hits in 73 2/3 IP. He was second in the CL in saves behind Hitoki Iwase. Through that year, Ishii was 27-15 with 49 saves and a 2.75 ERA in NPB, with 469 K in 369 IP.

Ishii was picked to represent Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic but again struggled in international competition, allowing two runs in 2/3 of an inning and losing his only decision while posting the highest ERA on the championship club. In 2006, he saved 6 of 11 games for Yakult with a 4.35 ERA. He battled a shoulder injury all year, had shoulder surgery after the season ended and will miss all of 2007.

Ishii throws a fastball (91-94 mph, 96.32 mph peak) and slider primarily, supplementing them with a forkball. He has repeatedly requested to be posted by Yakult, which has refused. He has been scouted by some major league teams though his injury may complicate matters.

Primary source: Japanbaseballdaily.com by Gary Garland