Tracy Ringolsby

MLB without a Japanese rookie in 2015

For the first time since Nomo's debut in '95, there are no newcomers from Japan

MLB without a Japanese rookie in 2015

TEMPE, Ariz. -- First, the Hiroshima Carp decided not to post right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda, delaying for at least one year Maeda's chance to sign with a Major League team. Then, shortstop Takashi Toritani, who drew interest from the Mets, Blue Jays and Padres, decided to re-sign with the Hanshin Tigers.

Now, Major League Baseball has opened Spring Training without a newcomer from Japan. For the first time since Hideo Nomo debuted with the Dodgers in 1995, there will be no Japanese rookies in the big leagues.

There have been 52 Japanese nationals who have appeared in the big leagues in the past two decades, 39 of whom have been pitchers. Nomo, who threw two no-hitters, was 123-109 in his career -- the only Japanese pitcher to win at least 80 big league games.

Ichiro Suzuki was both the American League Rookie of the Year Award winner and MVP Award winner when he debuted by hitting .350 with the Mariners in 2001. A career .317 hitter, Suzuki signed with the Marlins this year, and he heads into his 15th Major League season 156 hits shy of 3,000. The only other Japanese player to be honored for an award after a season was reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki, who won the 2000 AL Rookie of the Year Award with the Mariners.

Suzuki is the only Japanese batter with a career average of .290 or better. Hideki Matsui, who had 175 home runs and 760 RBIs, and Suzuki, who has 112 home runs and 717 RBIs, are the only Japanese players to have hit 50 big league home runs, and also they're the only ones to have at least 220 RBIs.

Foreign affairs
Dominican players have had the biggest impact of foreign-born big leaguers in the past two decades, led by Albert Pujols, who won the National League MVP Award with the Cardinals in 2005, '08 and '09 and was the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner in 2001.

Pedro's prolific career

Sammy Sosa was the NL MVP Award winner with the Cubs in 1998, Miguel Tejada won the AL MVP Award in 2002, and Vladimir Guerrero won the same award in '04. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez was the NL Cy Young Award winner in 1997, and he was the AL winner in '99 and 2000. Neftali Feliz won the AL Rookie of the Year Award with the Rangers in '10, and the NL Rookie of the Year Award went to Hanley Ramirez with the Marlins in '06 and Rafael Furcal with the Braves in '00.

Canadians have won three league MVP Awards in the past 20 years: Larry Walker in the NL with the Rockies in 1997, Justin Morneau in the AL with the Twins in 2006, and Joey Votto in the NL with the Reds in '10. Reliever Eric Gagne was the NL Cy Young Award winner in '03.

Cuban-born players have won Rookie of the Year Awards the past two years: Jose Fernandez in the NL with the Marlins in 2013, and Jose Abreu in the AL with the White Sox last year.

Miguel Cabrera, who was the AL MVP Award winner with the Tigers in 2012 and '13, is the lone Venezuelan to win a league MVP Award in the past two decades. Fellow countrymen Johan Santana ('04, '06) and Felix Hernandez ('10) were AL Cy Young Award winners.

Juan Gonzalez won the AL MVP Award with the Rangers in 1996 and '98, and fellow Puerto Rico native Ivan Rodriguez was the AL MVP with the Rangers in '99. Geovany Soto was the NL Rookie of the Year Award winner with the Cubs in 2008.

Numbers do lie
The exhibition season opens Tuesday. Beware of putting too much emphasis on win-loss records from the spring. The eventual World Series champion has had a winning spring record in only 12 of the past 20 years.

Moore, Yost on repeating success

The Royals advanced to the postseason for the first time in 30 seasons a year ago, but they were only 12-16 last spring. The Braves' lone World Series championship in their record-setting string of 14 consecutive division titles came in 1995, when they were 3-8 in a strike-shortened spring.

Settled in
The Tigers are holding Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla., for the 70th consecutive season, the longest tenure in a city of any team. The Tigers moved to Lakeland in 1946, the year before the Phillies made their spring home in Clearwater, Fla.

Third in terms of length of time in their current spring city is Pittsburgh, which has been in Bradenton, Fla., since 1969, followed by the Blue Jays, who have called Dunedin, Fla., their home since their inception in '77, and the Cubs, who have been in Mesa, Ariz., since '79.

It was the spring of 1989, and Mariners officials were adamant that Ken Griffey, Jr., who was 19 and had 462 at-bats on his Minor League resume, was going to be sent down for the regular season. Each week during staff meetings, it was reiterated that Griffey wasn't going to make the big league team.

In the final meeting, Mariners scout Bob Harrison asked, "OK, so who's going to tell him he's going down?" Nobody answered. Griffey made the team, and after finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year Award voting that year, he made the All-Star team each of the next 11 seasons.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.