Dennis Sarfate, an American who holds Japan's single-season saves record and is the only imported player to win the prestigious Matsutaro Shoriki Award for the greatest contribution to Japanese pro baseball, announced Saturday he was done playing.
Writing on his Facebook account, the 39-year-old SoftBank Hawks pitcher announced he had played his last game after deciding to go ahead with hip replacement surgery.
"After 20 years of professional baseball...I have played in my last game," he wrote. "I thought it would be an easy comeback but two-plus years later, 11 injections and countless physical therapy, I found out I need a hip replacement surgery."
Sarfate did not use the word "retire," and Hawks general manager Sugihiko Mikasa was careful to keep his options open.
"He might well retire," Mikasa said. "He wanted to tell everyone about his status and express his thanks. I want to talk to him and his future with the team, including the results of his surgery."
Before coming to Japan, Sarfate pitched in 92 major league games over four seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles.
Sarfate came to Japan with the Hiroshima Carp in 2011 and played one season with the Seibu Lions in 2013 before moving to SoftBank in 2014. He is fifth in career saves in Japan with 234, and in 2017 set Japan's single-season record with 54.
He closed out the year with an epic three-inning relief performance in Game 6 of the Japan Series against the DeNA BayStars in Fukuoka to seal the Hawks' first championship in two seasons.
That year, Sarfate was named the Pacific League's MVP and Japan Series MVP. But the Shoriki award was the biggest surprise of all.
Since 2001, the award had, with a few minor exceptions, been automatically awarded to the Japan Series' winning manager. No player had been the sole honoree since Hideki Matsui in 2000, and no imported player had ever won.
Sarfate came back in 2018 and saved five of the six games he pitched in before he returned to the United States for treatment and eventual surgery. He pitched in three preseason games last year and three more this year.