Thirty-three-year-old Takuya Asao is planning to retire at the end of the season. He is expected to hold a press conference later today.
Asao was arguably was one of the best set-up men in the NPB at his peak, particularly in 2010 and 2011, but he started having problems with his right shoulder in 2012 (likely from overwork) and has never been the same since. His fastball, which used to hit the low-150s, was down to the mid-130s.
In an interview with Tokyo Sports posted on August 29, in response to a comment about throwing a lot of off-speed pitches, Asao said he felt his image was changing. When asked about his thoughts on the fastball, he said it was still a very important pitch for him and that even if he could not throw it as hard as he did before, he still wanted to use it, like as a pitch to get batters to hit the ball foul.
Asao was also asked about his thoughts on Hiromitsu Ochiai overworking him and he said that he did not see it that way and instead felt grateful for the opportunities because it made him the pitcher he is today. He also said he had no regrets.
Source: Sponichi 9/26/2018, Sports Hochi 9/26/2018, Daily Sports 9/26/2018, Nikkan Sports 9/26/2018, Tokyo Sports 8/29/2018
[UPDATE 9/27 @ 12:41am]
Asao held a press conference at Nagoya Dome on September 26.
- Asao had been thinking about his career over the last three to four years. He approached each Ichi-gun appearance as if it might be his last. He never thought about quitting while playing at Ichi-gun and did not think much about the future because he did not want to think about giving up. However, after he gave up three runs to the Yomiuri Giants on September 16, he wondered if that was as good as it was going to get.
- The one pitch Asao remembers the most: a fastball he threw to Yoshinobu Takahashi during a Giants game at Nagoya Dome. He may have hit 156km/h with the pitch.
- When Asao was taken off the active roster on September 19, Shigekazu Mori told him to get ready for next season. It was at this time, Asao told Mori that he wanted to retire. Mori was the first person Asao talked to about retiring.
- Asao is happy about growing up in Aichi and ending his career in Aichi. He jokingly mentioned he never earned his free agent option and never had to consider leaving.
- Retirement game and ceremony: September 29 vs Hanshin at Nagoya Dome
Source: Chunichi 9/26/2018, Sanspo 9/26/2018, Sanspo 9/26/2018, Nikkan Sports 9/26/2018, Sponichi 9/26/2018, Sports Hochi 9/26/2018, Sports Hochi 9/26/2018, Sports Hochi 9/26/2018