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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SPORTS SCOPE

Buffaloes hurler Kisanuki thriving in new surroundings


What's that old saying about one man's trash again?

Jason Coskrey

Left on the Yomiuri Giants scrap heap six months ago, right-hander Hiroshi Kisanuki is slowly trying to rebuild a career that started with so much promise.

In his first season with the Orix Buffaloes, Kisanuki is the Pacific League's monthly MVP (for pitchers) for the month of June and an All-Star.

Meanwhile, the Giants are having issues with their pitching and could probably could use a dependable arm right about now. Sort of like the one they traded away to Orix in December.

He was dealt for sparsely used reliever Yasunari Takagi, who has yet to make an ichi-gun appearance for the Giants.

Kisanuki has seen his stock rise with the Buffaloes. He's 8-5 with a 3.87 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP over 100 innings. He's already appeared in more games this season (16) than the last two combined (15).

Kisanuki has heated up with the weather, ending May with a 4-5 record before blazing through June a perfect 4-0.

He's the Buffaloes' top pitcher this season, rocketing back into relevance seven years after his rookie of the year season in 2003, when he was 10-7 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 180 strikeouts.

His surprising debut those many summers ago set the bar higher than the lithe hurler was able to overcome. In 2004, Kisanuki's record fell to 7-8 and his ERA ballooned to 5.03 in 139 2/3 innings. A shoulder injury ended his year in 2005 after 14 games and he threw just 10 1/3 innings in 2006.

He mostly got back on track in 2007, going 12-9, with a 3.09 ERA, 131 strikeouts and 1.20 WHIP.

But then a largely benign 2008 campaign (6-5, 4.14 ERA and 1.43 WHIP) gave way to a disastrous 2009, where Kisanuki appeared in just one game, and gave up three runs in 2 2/3 innings.

News photo
New attitude: Buffaloes pitcher Hiroshi Kisanuki is proving he still has something left in the tank for Orix this season. KYODO PHOTO

His resurgence this season has shown that perhaps with a few more chances, Kisanuki may have been able to turn things around with Yomiuri.

In the end, the under-achieving former prodigy found himself a casualty of the Giants' excess.

Yomiuri saw Dicky Gonzalez win 15 games in 2009 and had high hopes for Shun Tono and Tetsuya Utsumi.

The Giants also had an eye on converting reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi into a starter, had Kentaro Nishimura still working his way back from injury, and had Wirfin Obispo and a host of bullpen arms to take on any extra work.

So Kisanuki was deemed expendable and essentially given away.

Now with Orix, Kisanuki is making the most of his latest opportunity.

The rookie with all the promise didn't turn out to be a star, but he's not as bad as his last two seasons would suggest.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

At least now, with his new team, Kisanuki has a chance to show Japanese baseball what he can really do.



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