FULL COUNT: Godzilla retires as Spring Training nears


As expected, former Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui officially retired on Jan. 3. The Houston Astros had been interested in 38-year-old, but injuries forced him from playing in the World Baseball Classic and ultimately out of baseball.

Matsui enjoyed success throughout his two decades in Japan and the majors, winning championships in both leagues. He was a nine-time all-star and three-time Japan Series champion before signing with the New York Yankees in 2002. Matsui went on to make back-to-back all-star appearances in 2003 and 2004, yet fans remember him for his six RBIs against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6 of the 2009 Fall Classic that clinched the World Series and solidified him as the MVP.

In his post-pinstripe days he found a niche as a designated hitter during one-year stints with the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.

Elsewhere around the league, teams are getting their Spring Training rosters in order with March fast approaching and several free agents will be returning to Japan.

The Rangers re-signed reliever Yoshinori Tateyama to a minor league contract. The 36-year-old will compete for a roster spot during spring training. Texas is also looking at adding free agent infielder Kensuke Tanaka, who was a teammate of pitcher Yu Darvish with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Baltimore pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada continues his recovery from Tommy John surgery and will try to secure a spot in the Orioles rotation this spring while first baseman Travis Ishikawa hopes to make the big league roster.

Chicago signed left-handed pitcher Hisanori Takahashi to a minor league deal that includes an invite to spring training where star reliever Kyuji Fujikawa is expected to cement his role as the Cubs opening day closer.

Ex-Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome signed a three-year deal with the Hanshin Tigers, who also added former Minnesota Twins infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Fukudome made his lone all-star appearance with Chicago in 2008.

Veteran pitcher Takashi Saito agreed to a one-year contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The 42-year-old appeared in just 16 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012. He was the Brewers seventh-inning man in 2011 and an all-star for the Dodgers in ’07.

Drew Morita, a Yonsei from the island of Kaua‘i, grew up rooting for the Oakland A’s but is now a loyal San Francisco Giants fan. He writes from San Francisco.

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