Right-hander Kyuji Fujikawa, who was released from the Rangers last week, has signed a contract with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League — an independent league in Japan, according to a report from Sanspo Sports. The Fighting Dogs officially announced the move today as well (both links in Japanese).
The 34-year-old Fujikawa is a native of Kochi and will be announced at a press conference in the coming days. One of the most heralded pitchers in Japanese history, Fujikawa pitched for Nippon Professional Baseball’s Hanshin Tigers from 2000-12, totaling a 1.77 ERA with 11.9 K/9, 2.7 BB/9 and 220 saves in 692 1/3 innings.
Fujikawa made the jump from NPB to MLB in the 2012-13 offseason, signing a two-year, $9.5MM contract with the Cubs. However, he was never able to live up to that deal, as he suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly into his Cubs career. He signed a one-year, $1.2MM contract with the Rangers this offseason but found himself quickly designated for assignment and released after returning from a stint on the disabled list due to a strained groin.
According to the Sanspo report (hat tip to former MLBTR scribe Aaron Steen for his assistance in translating the piece), Hanshin reached out to Fujikawa about a reunion following his release from the Rangers. Fujikawa had said that he would “be glad to get a dialogue going” with his former team. However, he did not find the Tigers’ offer to his liking and instead elected to pitch in his native Kochi. Fujikawa’s been pitching and working out since returning to Japan on May 25 while waiting to determine the next phase of his career. He told Sanspo in late May that he intended to pitch in Japan or retire, making a return to the United States seem unlikely.