Veteran reliever Junichi Tazawa recently joined the Saitama Musashi Heat Bears of the independent Route Inn Baseball Challenge League in his native Japan, per the Mainichi. Tazawa’s latest major league team, the Reds, released him in April after signing the right-hander to a minor league contract last August.
There apparently weren’t any MLB opportunities for Tazawa once Cincinnati parted with him, and it surely didn’t help his cause that there’s no minor league baseball this year. Tazawa didn’t say whether he’d try to return to MLB in the future or attempt to join Japan’s top league, Nippon Professional Baseball, but the 34-year-old admitted, “I know the rest of my baseball life is short.”
After Tazawa skipped NPB’s draft in 2008 to sign with the Red Sox, the league introduced a rule saying a player must wait two seasons after playing overseas to become eligible for its draft. While Tazawa’s choice obviously did not go over well in NPB, leaving proved to be a good move for him. Tazawa, after all, enjoyed a few highly successful seasons with the Red Sox – including during their World Series-winning 2013 campaign.
An Angel and a Marlin during his most recent MLB action from 2017-18, Tazawa has declined of late and may never pitch in the majors again. If he doesn’t, he’ll end up with a respectable 4.12 ERA/3.74 FIP and 8.51 K/9 against 2.48 BB/9 in 395 1/3 innings at the game’s highest level.