Tomohito Ito

From BR Bullpen

Tomohito Ito (伊藤 智仁)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 167 lb.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Tomohito Ito was an Olympic Bronze Medalist and Central League Rookie of the Year whose career was shortened by injuries.

Ito played for Mitsubishi Motors Kyoto in the industrial leagues after high school. [1] With the Japanese national team for the 1992 Olympics, he got the wins against both Spain (8 K in 7 IP) and Italy (12 K in 8 IP). In the Bronze Medal Game, he got the start against Ron Villone and Team USA; Japan jumped out to a 4-0 lead after 3 1/2 but Ito was tagged for two runs (one earned) in the 4th and Kento Sugiyama took over. Masanori Sugiura wound up getting the win in the 8-3 decision as Ito had not worked five innings. He did whiff seven in three innings against the US, facing a lineup loaded with future major leaguers like Jason Giambi, Phil Nevin, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeffrey Hammonds, Calvin Murray and Jason Varitek. He thus finished with 27 strikeouts in 18 IP, going 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in Barcelona. He led the first medal Olympics (baseball had been an exhibition sport before) in strikeouts, one ahead of Chien-Fu Kuo Lee. He also tied Sugiura, Chao-Huang Lin, Osvaldo Fernandez, Giorge Diaz and Jeff Alkire for 2nd in the 1992 Summer Games in wins, one behind Kuo Lee. That was still the record for strikeouts in an Olympics in the medal era at the time the IBAF website went down (where such things were tracked). [2]

The Yakult Swallows, Hiroshima Carp and Orix BlueWave all picked him 1st in the 1992 NPB draft, Yakult winning the lottery for his rights. [3] He became the first 100-million-yen rookie in Yakult history. [4] In 1993, he lived up to the hype, going 7-2 with a 0.91 ERA and 0.96 WHIP and fanning 126 in 109 IP before injuries ended his season. One game, he struck out 16 to set a CL record, but still lost to the Yomiuri Giants. Despite his shortened season and making only 12 starts, he still made the CL leaderboard in Ks (10th, between Kazuhisa Kawaguchi and Takashi Saitoh), starts pitched where he went into extra innings (3, 1st), complete games (5, tied for 8th) and shutouts (4, 2nd, one behind Masahiro Yamamoto). [5] Manager Katsuya Nomura apologized for the overuse of his youngster. [6] He won the CL Rookie of the Year, beating out Hideki Matsui most notably.

He missed the next two years with injuries, his slider again hitting the low-90s on the radar gun. He was 1-2 with 3 saves and a 5.40 ERA in 1996. In 1997, he was again dominant (7-2, 19 Sv, 1.51 in 34 G; only 23 hits in 47 2/3 IP, .69 WHIP, 53 K). He was 4th in the CL in saves, between Shinji Sasaoka and Sung-min Cho and 3rd in save points, behind Kazuhiro Sasaki and Dong-yeol Son. He won Comeback Player of the Year. [7] He pitched three shutout innings when Yakult won the 1997 Japan Series, setting up Shingo Takatsu in the clinching Game 5. [8]

Ito moved into the rotation again in 1998 and was 6-11 with 3 saves in 29 games (22 starts), posting a 2.72 ERA and fanning 154 in 158 2/3 IP while giving up just 118 hits. He was among the CL leaders in ERA (3rd, after Shigeki Noguchi and Kenshin Kawakami), losses (tied for 2nd with Nate Minchey and Sasaoka), complete games (6, tied for 4th), innings (tied for 10th with Tetsuro Kawajiri), walks (57, tied for 6th with Minchey), balks (3, tied for 1st), hit batsmen (9, tied for 1st with Ken Kadokura and Balvino Galvez) and strikeouts (2nd, a distant 87 behind Kazuhisa Ishii and 20 ahead of #3 Noguchi).

The right-hander was 8-3 with a 2.28 ERA in 1999 but was again sidelined by shoulder problems which required further surgery. [9] Had he qualified, he would have ranked 2nd to Koji Uehara in ERA. He returned briefly in 2000 and still performed well (8-7, 3.14). Had he qualified, he would have been 6th in ERA. He only pitched four more innings, with no runs, in 2001, requiring more shoulder surgery and ending his career. [10]

He had an impressive 2.31 ERA in 127 NPB games (70 starts), going 37-27 with 25 saves and 7 shutouts. He fanned 548 in 558 innings and allowed only 421 hits. He had hit .124/.161/.137.

He became a minor league coach for Yakult starting in 2004 and was pitching coach and later bench coach for the Swallows from 2008-2017. After a season in the independent Baseball Challenge League, he became a coach with the Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2019. [11]

Sources[edit]

  1. Defunct Japan Baseball Daily site
  2. Defunct IBAF site
  3. Japanese Wikipedia
  4. Japan Baseball Daily
  5. Japanese Baseball Database
  6. Japanese Wikipedia
  7. Japan Baseball Daily
  8. Japan Baseball Daily
  9. Japanese Wikipedia
  10. Japan Baseball Daily
  11. Japanese Wikipedia