Former Red Sox reliever Hirokazu Sawamura has returned to Japan by signing with the Chiba Lotte Marines of Nippon Professional Baseball, per a club announcement.
Sawamura, 34, spent the better part of the last two seasons with the Red Sox after signing a two-year, $3 million deal with Boston in February 2021. The right-hander came to the United States after spending the previous 10 seasons pitching overseas.
As a big-league rookie in 2021, Sawamura posted a 3.06 ERA and 5.00 FIP with 61 strikeouts to 32 walks over 55 relief appearances (53 innings pitched). He followed that up by compiling a a 3.73 ERA (4.16 FIP) with 40 strikeouts to 27 walks across 49 appearances (50 2/3 innings) out of the Boston bullpen last year.
Despite the relatively strong ERA in 2022, Sawamura did struggle in other areas. His 18.1 strikeout rate and 12.2 walk rate left much to be desired, as did his inability to miss bats and avoid giving up hard contact on a consistent basis.
Taking those underlying factors into consideration, the Red Sox designated Sawamura for assignment in late August. The 6-foot, 212-pound righty cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Worcester. He appeared in just one game for the WooSox before asking for and being granted his release in early September.
By releasing him, the Red Sox essentially bought out Sawamura for $1 million since he had a buyout attached to a $3 million dual player/club option for the 2023 season. It was previously reported by The Boston Globe that Sawamura was looking to sign with another MLB team this winter, but after a few months on the open market, he will now head back home.
Sawamura, who turns 35 in April, first broke in with the Yomiuri Giants in 2011. He spent the first nine years of his professional career there before being traded to Chiba Lotte midway through the 2020 campaign. With the Marines, Sawamura pitched to a miniscule 1.71 ERA over 22 relief appearances spanning 21 innings of work.
(Picture of Hirokazu Sawamura: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)