Sasaki held a press conference at the club’s office on Wednesday. He made his official appearance a day after signing an annual salary contract with the club on Wednesday. The annual salary is said to be frozen at 80 million yen (about 723 million won) that he received last year.
Sasaki drew attention from scouts by distributing fast balls over 150 kilometers in high school, but made his professional debut after receiving the first nomination of Chiba Lotte in the 2019 Rookie Draft. In his third year as a pro, he surprised the baseball community by achieving a perfect game in 2022. It was the youngest perfect game in NPB history. In the following year, Sasaki participated in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, winning one game and posting an ERA of 3.52 in two games, proving that he is growing into a next-generation ace by contributing to Japan’s victory.
The problem was durability. He never played full-time since his professional debut. Naturally, he failed to achieve even the required innings. He suffered various injuries including blisters and side of his fingers. He also finished last year with seven wins, four losses and an ERA of 1.78, due to major and minor injuries.
In the meantime, Sasaki declared his bid to the Major League after the end of the season. However, the club refused to allow it. According to regulations, Japanese players under the age of 25 cannot receive a large amount of money if they sign a contract with a Major League Baseball team. Therefore, Lotte will not be able to collect much posting fees either.
This led to a conflict between Sasaki and Chiba Lotte. Salary negotiations were over, and Sasaki even withdrew from the NPB Championship.
Time continued, and there was less than a week left until spring camp. At this time, the conflict was dramatically sealed. Sasaki stamped his salary contract.
Sasaki then revealed about the stories surrounding him. First of all, he said, “I couldn’t be interviewed in public. Various reports have caused concern to the fans. I wanted to talk to the fans about this first.”
Asked whether the prolonged salary negotiations were related to the club’s opposition, he explained, “The negotiations itself were made through agents. It had to take a long time. We concluded well by agreeing with each other.”
Sasaki then mentioned about his advance to the Major League. “My dream was to enter the U.S. when I was young. That’s why I have been talking to my club since the beginning of my joining the club. I understand the club to some extent,” he said, revealing that he did not make the remarks out of the blue.
For now, he announced that he would give up his dream of playing in the Major League and focus on the season. “I have no change in my desire to play in the Major League in the future,” Sasaki said. “I think the season ahead of me is more important. I will do my best to show better pitching. I failed to throw many balls last year, so I will make sure to watch winning games.”