For those who haven’t heard of her, Eri Yoshida is the first female baseball player to play professionally in the US in 10 years, and the first to play professionally in 2 countries (US/Japan). The diminutive (5’1″ 115lbs) Yoshida is a sidearm knuckleballer who signed this season with the Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden League after playing professionally in Japan.
The Golden League is no joke – it consists of failed major league players, minor league journeymen and players that have “fallen through the cracks.” Most recently Scott Richmond and Daniel Nava have advanced to the majors while making the Golden League a pitstop on their journeys.
The buzz surrounding Yoshida was considerable as the Outlaws sold out their first two home games. Of course, critics were quick to judge Yoshida’s addition to the Outlaws’ roster as merely a publicity stunt in a league known for them (Pat Sajak bobblehead giveaways, Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco signings). However, the “knuckle princess” (as she is known in Japan) has proven she can pitch – albeit with inconsistent results. In her debut, Yoshida’s knuckleball failed to flutter or find the strike zone. Opposing hitters waited on her 65mph fastball and scored 4 runs in 3 innings.
Her best outing came in her following start vs. the Yuma Scorpions where she pitched 4 innings and allowed only 1 run while striking out 1. Over the course of an entire season, however, Yoshida’s numbers are not pretty:
Yoshida’s Outlaws are now in the playoffs and Eri has been firmly planted to the bench. It’s not likely that she will get any playing time outside of a mop-up duty situation. Will she be back next year? Keep in mind she is only 18 years old and playing in a league way over her head. The knuckleball is notoriously difficult to master as both Tim Wakefield and RA Dickey will testify. Luckily, Yoshida has time on her side.
Time will tell if she is able to have success in baseball at a professional level. Though the odds are stacked against her, this is a story worth keeping tabs on.[youtube _N-ulbuGBPI] [youtube ZsD94t6niOo]
Speaking of Japan, we promised some time ago that we would keep you up to date on the progress of former Blue Jay Randy Ruiz, “free’d” to the Japanese Professional League.
Ruiz initially struggled out of the gates in Japan, but he seems to have settled in to his slugging role quite nicely. He has upped his average from .179 to .257. He’s hit 10HR in 250ABs which translates to about 20HR for a full season. Certainly he’s not the next coming of Babe Ruth like many had pegged him to be, but he is performing as expected. He still strikes out a tonne but has been working in the odd walk here and there. All things considered, Ruiz has done quite well for himself in a league that will feed hitters a steady diet of breaking balls, pitches that Ruiz struggles with.
No word on how his defense is grading out.