Irabu with Kochi manager, Chiaki Sadaoka (Sanspo)
Irabu will be making his first official start on August 23rd against the Ehime Mandarin Pirates at Kochi Stadium.
Said Irabu, "If I'm going to do this, I may as well shoot for the top leagues in Japan (NPB)."
=== Update: 8/10 @ 8:24pm JST
According to Sanspo, Irabu will probably be paid about 150,000yen (~US$1,500) a month. At least that's according to the following:
- The lowest guaranteed salary for a player in the Shikoku - Kyushu league is 120,000yen (~US$1,200).
- Top paid players on Kochi make anywhere from 170,000 - 180,00yen.
- The club president mentioned that his salary would fall somewhere in the range of 120,000 and 180,000.
It's nice to see that he won't be getting preferential treatment.
The NPB also announced that according to the rules, Irabu will be free to sign with any NPB team that wants him once the season ends.
And here's a translation of some of the things that he said during the press conference:
Your reasons from switching from the US independent leagues to Kochi?
I thought I'd have a better chance at making an impression with [Japanese] scouts if I pitch over here. But more than that, I just want to pitch as much as I can right now.
There are long bus rides for games in the Shikoku - Kyushu Independent League...
Back when I was with the Expos on their single A team, I remember traveling by bus for 12-13 hours. I've done it before, I can do it again.
Getting back to the NPB at 40...
As long as I can throw, I want to keep on throwing. Age isn't a problem. I started 10 games in a US independent league. I think I'll be able to surprise some people.
You'll be playing with a lot of youngsters...
I'll be more than happy to give out advice if they ask for it.
How would you like to pitch?
I want to stick with my plan plan of throwing fastballs mixed in with sinking pitches.
=== Update: 8/11 2:44pm JST
A few more updates:
- Irabu's salary will be 160,000yen per month (no bonuses). The team has also assigned him the number 14 (the reverse of his number from his time with the Hanshin Tigers).
- Irabu tossed 99 pitches in front of reporters after the press conference.
- The Long Beach Armada has posted an article at their site about Irabu returning to Japan.
- Prior to signing with Kochi, Irabu apparently approached the Chiba Lotte Marines to see if they might be interested in his services. But they turned him down, citing age as a concern. The Marines also told him that they were more interested in developing their younger players. The Eagles also don't appear to have any interest in the 40-year-old. But surprise, surprise, the Tigers seem to. Club president Shoji Numasawa said he wanted see for himself, just how far he's come back. He did, however, appear to be worried about Irabu's knees.
And a couple of other interview questions picked up by Sponichi:
What kind of path are you envisioning for yourself to get back to the NPB?
I'd like to be a member of Kochi's starting rotation. I also heard that we'll be playing a few games with NPB clubs, so I definitely want to pitch during those games and leave my mark.
Your current situation?
I started throwing on June 13th and started 10 games. I average about 100 pitches per start using fastballs and change-ups. I've worked on my pick-off move and covering first base.
What will you did if you don't get an offer from the NPB?
If there's nothing wrong with me physically, I'll think about what to do at that point.