- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 171 lb.
- High School Miyakonojo High School
- Debut March 31, 2008
- Final Game April 24, 2008
- Born August 4, 1976 in Kita Morokata-gun, Miyazaki Japan
Two-time NPB All-Star pitcher Kazuo Fukumori pitched briefly in the major leagues in 2008.
Fukumori was a third-round draft pick of the Yokohama BayStars in 1995. He debuted with the club the same year, throwing five scoreless innings. The first batter he struck out was Tom O'Malley. In 1996, Fukumori threw one shutout inning for the BayStars. In 1997, he began seeing regular action, going 4-4 with a 2.90 ERA in 71 1/3 innings. He picked up his first win on July 31. He had the best ERA of any pitcher who started for the team that year.
Fukumori was 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA in three stars in 1998. Despite his limited action, he again led the staff's starters in ERA, edging out Takashi Saitoh and far ahead of Pat Mahomes. He did not have the lowest ERA on the pitching staff by any means as Kazuhiro Sasaki was at 0.64. He pitched 1 2/3 relief innings in the 1998 Japan Series, allowing three baserunners but no runs in a game three loss. Yokohama won the Series in six games, their first title ever.
Fukumori had a 9-9, 4.27 record in 1999 as Yokohama failed to repeat their 1998 success. At the plate, Fukumori fared well for a pitcher, going 8 for 35 with 4 walks. It was his best season in terms of wins.
In 2000, the right-hander was 6-6 with 10 saves and a 3.58 ERA. He was 5 for 19 with a double and four runs offensively. He and Atsushi Kizuka split the closer's role as Sasaki had left for the US. He registered his first career save on April 23.
Fukumori was 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA in five games in 2001. The next year, he went 2-3 with a 2.96 ERA in 33 games. Only Saitoh and Domingo Guzman posted lower ERAs for the BayStars that campaign. He went 2 for 7 as a batter.
Fukumori's last season with Yokohama was his busiest with 62 appearances, 22 more than ever before, as he was used strictly in relief. He was 1-3 with a save and a 4.50 ERA. He led the team in appearances but had one of the worst ERAs of any of their relief corps members.
Moving to the Kintetsu Buffaloes in a trade with Eiji Yano for Ken Kadokura and Shinji Udaka, Fukumori went 2-5 with 10 saves, a 5.18 ERA and 1.58 WHIP. He led a shaky bullpen in saves, with five more than runner-up Hector Carrasco; only a couple relievers had worse ERAs for Kintetsu that campaign. That year, he also married TV announcer Hanae Fukumoto.
Fukumori was taken by the expansion Rakuten Golden Eagles in the distribution draft and became their closer. On a 38-97 team, he managed to go 4-3 with 11 saves and a 3.57 ERA. He was second on the staff in wins and had one of only a couple winning records. He also led the team in saves.
Fukumori had a career season in 2006. He was 0-3 with 21 saves and a 2.17 ERA, allowing only two hits in 58 innings while striking out 55 for a 48-85 club. Along with Jose Fernandez, he was one of only two Rakuten players chosen for the Pacific League entry in the NPB All-Star Games. In the second All-Star Game of 2006, he pitched a scoreless 7th inning with a 4-4 tie in a game the PL lost. He retired Norichika Aoki on a pop-out and Norihiro Akahoshi on a fly. After walking Takashi Toritani, Fukumori got Osamu Hamanaka to ground into an inning-ending force play at second base.
Fukumori went 4-2 with 17 saves for the 2007 Golden Eagles. His ERA rose to 4.75 and his WHIP to 1.69. He was again an All-Star even though Rakuten was improved and 7 of their other players were chosen. He was slated to pitch the 9th inning of the 2nd All-Star Game that year, but it was rained out in the 8th.
Fukumori's 2007 was cut short by an elbow injury, which required surgery.
Despite his 2007 struggles and injury, the Texas Rangers still signed Fukumori for 2008 and he made the team out of spring training.
He had a rough major league debut on Opening Day 2008. He relieved Kevin Millwood in the 7th inning with the Rangers trailing 2-1 against the Seattle Mariners. He retired Jose Vidro on a grounder, then walked Kenji Johjima. Yuniesky Betancourt singled to right. Facing his second Japanese batter in his brief major league career to that point, Ichiro Suzuki, Fukumori threw a wild pitch before issuing an intentional walk to load the bags. Facing Jose Lopez, Fukumori threw another wild pitch, scoring Johjima. Lopez then doubled home Betancourt and Suzuki. Fukumori was finally relieved by Franklyn German. Texas lost 5-2 with Fukumori having allowed 3 of the game's 7 runs in his short work.
He was the third Japanese player for the Rangers, following Hideki Irabu and Akinori Otsuka. He only pitched four games for the 2008 Rangers, with 11 hits, 4 walks, two wild pitches and nine runs in just four innings for a 20.25 ERA. With the Oklahoma RedHawks for the rest of the summer, he was better if not good (1-6, 2 Sv, 5.48 in 38 G). He also had back surgery that year.
Rakuten, take two
Fukumori was signed by Rakuten after a try-out and had a rebound season in 2009 (7-1, 10 Sv, 2.18). He was 6th in the Pacific League in saves and tied Daisuke Kato for 5th in save points. He allowed six hits and five runs in one inning in 2010, though, going 0-2, had shoulder surgery and decided to retire instead of hitting the comeback trail again.
In 414 games in NPB, Fukumori was 41-45 with 82 saves and a 3.65 ERA. In 708 1/3 innings, he allowed 718 hits and 257 walks while striking out 495.
- 2008 Rangers Media Guide
- Japan Baseball Daily by Gary Garland
- Japanese wikipedia
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