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Houton formally brought back; Minagawa gets call to Hall

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Houton formally brought back; Minagawa gets call to Hall

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As reported earlier this month, DJ Houlton was reportedly brought back after finding no takers on the free agent market. Today, he was formally brought back on a one-year extension worth 50 million yen plus incentives.

Other Hawks news on the salary front came from NPB commissioner Ryozo Katoh. While Seibu Lions ace Hideaki Wakui's arbitration request was accepted, Hiroshi Shibahara's was put on hold due to Katoh wanting more detailed information about both sides' discussions in writing by the 20th.

Apparently, Katoh said that the issue is whether Shibahara actually accepted the pay cut or not. The Hawks' veteran outfielder said that he never accepted the pay cut. SoftBank management said that they will try to provide as much information as possible.

Finally today, the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame's Class of 2011 was announced. The two inductees this year are former Nankai Hawks pitcher Mutsuo Minagawa (1954-1971) from the Experts' Division and current Chunichi Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai from the Players' Division.

Minagawa served his entire career with the Hawks. His best year was 1968, the so-called "Year of the Pitcher" in Major League Baseball, but Minagawa fit right in that year. He went 31-10 with a 1.67 ERA in 56 games, a stat line that actually bettered MLB's Cy Young Award winner for that season, Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers. He threw 27 complete games, eight of them shutouts, and he struck out 193 batters. However, he ultimately lost out on the Sawamura Award to Hanshin Tigers pitcher Yutaka Enatsu, who struck out a world record 401 batters. However, Minagawa did win the ERA title and was also selected to his only Best Nine.

On the other side, what else can be said about Hiromitsu Ochiai? He played for four teams in his career: he broke through in 1979 with the Lotte Orions and played with them through 1986, when he was sent to the Chunichi Dragons. He became a free agent in 1994, when he signed with the Yomiuri Giants, then served the last two years of his career in the same dome, but with the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Often a controversial figure in traditional Pro Yakyu circles due to his unorthodox style of play and effort, Ochiai proved the doubters wrong throughout his career. A career .311 hitter, Ochiai was wildly popular with 15 All-Star selections, and was twice an MVP of the game. He also won five each of batting, home run, and RBI titles, and was a 10-time Best Nine selection. He also won two MVP awards (1982, 1985, both with Lotte), and also won three Triple Crowns (1982, 1985, 1986).

Since 2004, Ochiai has managed the Chunichi Dragons and engineered the team to four Japan Series appearances (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010), and he also helped end the Dragons' 54-year championship drought.

Remember, everybody, just 18 days until Spring Camp starts! As usual, the Hawks will make their home in Miyazaki.
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