Junichi Kawahara (河原 純一)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 162 lb.
Junichi Kawahara has pitched in Nippon Pro Baseball for over a decade, making one All-Star team.
Kawahara had a 23-10, 1.66 record in college, taking three MVP awards. He went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA for the Japanese national team in the 1994 Baseball World Cup. He won a best pitcher award in a tournament between Japan's college All-Stars and the USA college All-Stars (who likely included Matt Morris and R.A. Dickey). The Yomiuri Giants took him in the first round in the 1994 draft.
Junichi became a starter midway through his rookie season, 1995, when Masumi Kuwata got hurt; he went 8-6 with a 3.31 ERA in 19 outings that year. After starting 0-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 1996, the right-hander had elbow surgery. When he returned in 1997, he was a reliever, going 2-1 with a save and a 2.60 ERA in 25 outings. He had shoulder surgery in 1998 and missed all season. He saw limited action in 1999 (2-2, 4.85) and 2000 (4-0, 1.42).
Kawahara was 4-4 with two saves, a .310 opponent average and a 5.94 ERA as a swingman in 2001. He made the Central League All-Star team in 2002, when he was 5-3 with 28 saves and a 2.70 ERA, walking only six and fanning 61 in 50 innings. He retired three of four batters he faced in the 2002 Japan Series, tossing the last inning of Yomiuri's sweep of the Seibu Lions.
In 2003, Kawahara imploded, going 0-3 with 7 saves, a 9.41 ERA and .363 opponent average; he still led Yomiuri in saves, two more than Julio Santana. He had more woes in 2004 (0-1, 2 Sv, 6.46). He was then dealt to the Seibu Lions for Mitsutaka Goto.
Put into Seibu's rotation, Kawahara was unimpressive in 2005 at 2-11, 5.38. He tied Naoyuki Shimizu for sixth in the Pacific League in losses, third among native-born players (the two with more losses both had much better careers - Hisashi Iwakuma and Daisuke Matsuzaka). That off-season, he again had surgery, this time on his knee.
After missing 2006, Junichi was 0-2 with a .372 average and 12.19 ERA in three starts in 2007. He did not play in 2008. Signing with the Chunichi Dragons, the 36-year-old rebounded in 2009, going 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA and .207 opponent average in 44 games.