By Bob Wirz
Major League Baseball’s goodwill tour of Japan ended with only one victory in six games, but don’t blame the trio of former American Association players on the 29-man roster who held up their end of things and gleaned a nice chunk of publicity at the same time.
(Photo Credit: Dallas News, www.w3livenews.com)
Reliever Chris Martin, who was 24 when he broke into professional baseball with Grand Prairie in 2010, garnered a great deal of publicity from the Japanese media since he had spent both 2016 and 2017 pitching in the country for the Nippon Ham Fighters. He helped the team to victory in the Japan Series in his first season, and finished with a 1.12 earned run average while giving up only 4.7 hits every nine innings in 92 appearances. Martin returned to his home area’s Texas Rangers last season largely because of an expected addition to the family.
The onetime Colorado Rockies and New York Yankees hurler earned a save in MLB’s only victory on the tour with one of the three scoreless innings he recorded. In all, he gave up only one hit while striking out a trio of hitters.
“I think it (what was learned while pitching in Japan) was all mental,” the 32-year-old told The Japan Times, one of the newspapers that wrote extensively about the 6-foot-8 hurler in recent days. “I’ve been saying it over and over again, you get to play in this atmosphere, and I got to pitch in a lot of big situations over here and I’ve just learned to slow the game down. When your mind speeds up, your body speeds up. To be able to be in front of this atmosphere and learn and do that over and over again, you get more comfortable in those situations. So that helped a lot.”
Onetime AA starter Junior Guerra (Wichita, 2011, 2013) distinguished himself after MLB manager Don Mattingly chose the current Milwaukee Brewers hurler as his starter in Games 1 and 5 of the week-long series.
Guerra, who led all 15 pitchers on the trip with 141 innings during the regular season but had not started a game since September 2, was limited to 74 pitches in his first outing, and he allowed three earned runs in 4.1 innings. The right-hander came back five days later and left in the sixth inning with the MLB team leading, 5-1, although two runners were on base. While the visitors eventually lost, 6-5, Guerra finished his work with a 3.86 earned run average and 12 strikeouts (five walks) in his 9.1 innings. He was not charged with the loss in either game.
St. Louis’s John Brebbia spent two full seasons developing in the American Association (2014 at Sioux Falls, the next year at Laredo) before earning his first affiliated opportunity above Class A. Now 28, he worked the eighth inning just ahead of Martin in that MLB victory in Japan. He was touched for an unearned run after giving up two hits and making a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Brebbia allowed two earned runs in his three outings.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com (including Kindle copies), or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.