Unfortunately, this is a known defect; he's had shoulder trouble in the past, and an operation several years ago. I had actually noticed that he seemed off his game during the Fighters-Hawks game I liveblogged a few weeks ago -- notably, he couldn't throw a curveball for a strike, and his velocity was down a bit. And he's been throwing a lot more pitches than he usually does. So, for the Saitoh fans who were wondering why he wasn't flat-out dominating this year -- now you know why. Seems like they're hoping he'll be back in shape to play in a few months, but man -- that's a HUGE hit to the Hawks to have him out for a while, even though Arakaki-Wada-Sugiuchi is STILL quite a punch at the top of the rotation.
Anyway for Grace, who requested it, his latest diary entry reads:
右肩の疲労のため、登録抹消する事になりました。And here I translate:
Because of fatigue in my right shoulder, I have been taken off the roster.
Even since before Opening Day, I felt like my shoulder was slow to recover, but I stepped up to the mound on Opening Day regardless.
Recently I don't actually feel *pain* in my shoulder, and I've been hopeful and believing in the possibility that I could just change my preparation routine between starts, but.
After the last week or ten days or so where my shoulder recovery has been lousy, we came to a bunch of decisions.
It has been decided thats even though I have been contributing a little to the team, it's not good for either me OR the team for me to continue pitching like this.
To all the fans, I am REALLY sorry about this. But I am going to do my best to get back to full health, and to keep the promises I made during the "Morning Voice".
(I went back and listened to what he said during the Morning voice stuff during spring training, but it was basically "We will be the best in the world! We will throw manager Oh up in the air in victory after the season!")
You know who I really feel bad for? Naoki Matoba, the guy who pretty much only still has a job on the top-level team because he's Saitoh's personal catcher for the most part, who has gotten all of one hit in 17 plate appearances this year. Of course, catchers have pretty much been a black hole in the Hawks lineup since Kenji Johjima left, so whatever.
By the way, yes, the Fighters are still the only team in the Pacific League who haven't reached double digits in wins. When I predicted that Rakuten was not going to finish in the cellar this year, I wasn't expecting the team below them to be my Sapporo squad, but alas, that seems to be the way it's going. Aside from Darvish, none of the pitchers are really dealing like they were last year, and nobody on the team is slugging over .500; Seguignol and Inaba are trying, but the loss of Ogasawara and Shinjo in the lineup is actually making a fairly big difference. Tsuboi's doing his usual high-average low-power thing, Hichori's not bad but he still needs to cut down on his strikeouts, and Kensuke Tanaka is finally picking up the pace a bit. I guess all is not lost, especially if they can find a foreign slugger who can actually hit (Sorry, Mr. Green.). Brian Sweeney is starting to learn the Japanese strike zone a bit better, too. But, eh. We'll see, I guess.