Former Rangers righty Kohei Arihara is returning to Japan for the 2023 season and will sign with the SoftBank Hawks of Nippon Professional Baseball, per reports from Japanese outlets The Manichi and Sports Hochi. Prior to his two-year MLB run in Texas, Arihara had spent six seasons with NPB’s Nippon-Ham Fighters.
Now 30 years old, Arihara’s brief time in the Majors was tanked by health woes. Originally signed to a two-year, $6.2MM contract, the right-hander posted a 2.21 ERA through his first four big league starts in Texas. His velocity dropped more than two miles per hour over his next four outings, however, and Arihara was shelled for 16 runs over a period of 8 1/3 innings before heading to the injured list. The Rangers discovered an aneurysm in his shoulder that required immediate surgery which sidelined him more than three months. At the time, GM Chris Young noted that it was “a very serious condition if it’s not treated, and we’re very fortunate that this was caught early and we didn’t continue to push it with [Arihara].”
Arihara returned late in the 2021 season but pitched just a dozen innings in September. The Rangers removed him from the 40-man roster over the winter. He remained with the organization in 2022 and spent the bulk of his season with Triple-A Round Rock, though Texas did call on him for 20 Major League frames late in the summer. Arihara allowed 21 runs in those 20 innings, although a staggering 11 of them came in one outing against the Blue Jays where the Rangers seemingly left him on the mound in hopes of sparing the bullpen and designated him for assignment the next day.
All in all, Arihara tossed just 60 2/3 Major League innings for the Rangers in his time with the team. He’ll head back to his native Japan and look to further build upon what was a solid NPB career prior to his MLB audition. In 836 innings with the Fighters, Arihara notched a 3.74 ERA with an 18% strikeout rate and 5.5% walk rate. He was particularly sharp in his final two pre-Rangers seasons, logging a 2.91 ERA through 297 innings in 2019-20.