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[NPB NOTEBOOK] Yoshitomo Tsutsugo Makes Winning Return with BayStars

The 32-year-old slugger hit a dramatic three-run homer in his first game back with the BayStars since 2019, leading Yokohama past the Swallows.



Yoshitomo Tsutsugo belts a three-run home run in the eighth inning against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows on May 6, 2024, at Yokohama Stadium. (©SANKEI)

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Yoshitomo Tsutsugo marked his return to NPB in style, belting a three-run homer in the eighth inning on Monday, May 6 to lead the Yokohama DeNA BayStars to a come-from-behind 6-5 win over the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Making his first appearance for the BayStars in five years after playing in Major League Baseball, Tsutsugo came through when it mattered most.

His three-run blast off Yakult reliever Jose Espada into the right-field stands at Yokohama Stadium capped a four-run rally that allowed the BayStars to move into a tie for second place in the Central League standings with the Yomiuri Giants, 2½ games back of the Hanshin Tigers.

"My teammates were encouraging me even before the game," Tsutsugo said. "I saw everyone's determination to win the game even when we were behind. It was a huge moment for me."

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo poses with the BayStars mascots after the game on May 6. (©SANKEI)

Before he left for the majors, Tsutsugo was a fan favorite in Yokohama. He was one of the most feared hitters in NPB in the late 2010s but could not establish himself with an MLB club.

After failing to catch on in MLB, the 32-year-old Tsutsugo signed a three-year contract with Yokohama, with an annual salary of ¥300 million JPY ($1.9 million USD) through the second year and subject to change in the third.


Yokohama fans couldn't be happier. He was greeted with chants of "Go, Go, Tsutsugo," every time he came to the plate in Monday's game. Tsutsugo also had a double to left in the seventh, a walk in the second and a long fly out in the fourth that advanced the runner.

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo is seen on the giant scoreboard at Yokohama Stadium on May 6. (©SANKEI)

BayStars Veteran Bounced Around MLB

In a total of 182 major league games for the Tampa Bay Rays, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates between 2020 and 2022, he struggled to a .197 batting average with 18 home runs and 75 RBIs.

The veteran outfielder went to this year's spring training with the San Francisco Giants on a minor league deal but became a free agent when he wasn't able to nail down an MLB roster spot.

Tsutsugo was Samurai Japan's cleanup hitter at the 2017 World Baseball Classic. His return to Yokohama automatically makes the BayStars a better team in the highly competitive CL.

Along with hitters like Shugo Maki and Toshiro Miyazaki, the BayStars have a formidable lineup.

Continue reading the full story on SportsLook.


Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.