Hirokazu Sawamura’s Signature Splitter Impressing Red Sox, Fooling Everyone Else

'Maybe the hardest one ever thrown, I don't know'


June 8, 2021

In his first season playing Major League Baseball, Hirokazu Sawamura has emerged as one of the Boston Red Sox’s most reliable relievers.

But we simply must talk about his splitter.

The right-hander tossed 1 1/3 innings for Boston and was credited with the win on the mound Monday in a 5-3 victory against the Miami Marlins. Of his 23 offerings, that signature pitch was used 10 times, clocking one at an absurd 94.2 mph to strike out Adam Duvall and get out of the seventh inning.

Per Alex Speier of The Boston Globe, Sawamura owns 18 of the 20 hardest splitters in the majors this year, topping out at 95 mph.

“I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest split in the game,” fellow bullpen arm Adam Ottavino, who recorded the save, said about Sawamura after the win. “Maybe the hardest one ever thrown, I don’t know. But I looked at it one day and it was definitely hardest in the game. So, in it of itself that’s unique, and then it still has action. You would think if he threw it that hard he might throw through the break on the pitch, but he does a good job of staying on top of it and you can see the hitters definitely think it’s a fastball out of his hand. So it’s pretty unique pitch. He showed me how to throw it but I don’t think I can do that.”

Sawamura finished the day with no hits or runs allowed, with a walk and two strikeouts. After 21 appearances for the Red Sox and 24 innings pitched, the reliever has earned a 2.63 ERA with 33 strikeouts.

With the stretch he’s having, it’s hard to believe it’s his first season in the United States, nevermind Major League Baseball.

He’s acclimating from playing in Japan quite well, his teammates would say.

“He’s been amazing, you see he’s got a special pitch in that split, and he throws hard, he works really hard, he’s focused, he’s locked in every day, is one of the boys down there,” Ottavino said.

“He’s really meshed really well. Can’t think of it going really any smoother for a guy, first time in the States. So really happy for him and really happy he’s on our side.”

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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