Recently, I was perusing the list of 2011 major league debuts, looking to see if any interesting players had reached the Show.
The name Yoshinori Tateyama caught my eye. I’m normally relatively well-informed whenever someone from Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball signs with a major league team, because those signings are always something of a big deal—however, I had never even heard of Tateyama.
The 35-year-old right-handed relief pitcher for the Texas Rangers made his big league debut almost a week ago, on May 24. In his first game, he allowed a run in just 0.2 innings, surely leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many Rangers fans.
Since then, however, he has pitched quite well, lowering his season ERA to 1.80 and even saving a game. In his most recent outing, May 28, he pitched three innings without surrendering a single earned run.
It is surprising that Tateyama’s signing by and eventual debut for the Texas Rangers were not met with much fanfare. Coming out of Japan, he certainly was not a nobody—for example, in 2010, he posted a 1.80 ERA in 58 games for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, striking out 59 batters in 55 innings.
Certainly, the Minnesota Twins’ signing of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, which was announced just a couple weeks after the acquisition of Tateyama, was much more publicized and helped bury the latter’s story—but to force him into such relative anonymity until his debut is quite a feat.
In total, Tateyama spent 12 seasons pitching at Japan’s highest level of baseball. He appeared in 438 games (mostly in relief) and posted a 3.43 ERA.
He spent over a decade on the other side of the world, perfecting his craft. Despite receiving little ado, the 35-year-old rookie made his big league debut and is now what every ballplayer wants to be—a major leaguer.