Masato Yoshii was born April 20, 1965 in Osaka, Japan. The tall six foot two right hander was originally drafted in Japan in 1984.
He struggled with high ERA’s in his first two seasons pitching for the Kintetsu Buffaloes and earned his first career win in 1987. In 1988 he was the Pacific Leagues Relief pitcher of the Year, winning 19 games while posting 24 saves. He saved twenty more games the next year and eventually converted over to being a starter with the Yakult Swallows in 1993.
He won ten or more games the next three years, having a career year in the final year of his contract. He wanted to remain loyal to his team but his agent convinced to shoot for higher salaries with other teams Some in Japan felt he was asking more than he was worth. His friend Hideo Nomo convinced him to come over & pitch in America. He refused all offers in Japan to sign on with the New York Mets for $200,000 with incentives that would make him a million in his first year.
He made his MLB debut starting the fifth game of the 1998 season, throwing seven shutout innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, recording his first MLB win. Yoshi allowed just three hits & struck out seven in that game. In May he won three straight decisions, including a complete game performance where he allowed just one run on May 21st against the Cincinatti Reds at Shea Stadium.
He was 4-1 at the beginning of June but he would lose his next five decisions, and not earn another victory until August 19th. He would win just one more game the rest of the season, coming in his last outing of the year in a game against the Florida Marlins. In 29 games he went 6-8 with a 3.93 ERA striking out 117 batters in 177 innings pitched, giving up 22 HRs while walking only 55 batters
In 1999 he was once again on Bobby Valentines staff, & won his first outing of the season. It was the sixth game of the season, a 10-3 win over the Expos at Montreal. After a 1-3 April, he won four straight starts, including a two hit six inning shutout performance against the Diamond backs in Arizona. As the season went on h got better closing out the year with five straight winning decisions in August & September.
He got better run support than the previous year, especially down the stretch. Yoshi pitched a complete game, one run, six hitter in San Diego on August 18th against the Padres to start the win streak. He would pitch into the sixth inning or beyond in all his wins, finishing the year at 12-8 with a 4.40 ERA. In 29 games he struck out 105 batters in 170 innings, helping the Mets catch the Wild Card title & go to their first post season since 1986.
Post Season: In the NLDS he started Game #2 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, going into the 6th inning giving up four runs on six hits while earning no decision. The Mets eventually won the game 8-4. In the NLCS he got the call from Bobby Valentine to start Game #1 in Atlanta against Greg Maddox & the Braves. He took the loss giving up two runs on five hits in 4.2 innings pitched.
He returned to start the eventual classic Robin Ventura "grand slam single" Game #4, and was one of the nine Mets pitchers used in the extra inning win. In the game Yoshii allowed two runs on four hits in just three innings pitched.
In the 1999 off season he was traded to the Colorado Rockies for the left handed Bobby Jones & some guy named Lariel Gonzales. Yoshii got hit hard in the thin Rocky Mountain air at Colorado, going 6-15 (sixth most losses in the league) as he posted a 5.86 ERA. He was released after the season and signed on with the Montreal Expos pitching there for two seasons. He went 8-16 over those seasons with an ERA averaging around 4.50. By age 38 he was out of the major leagues after pitching there for five years.
Lifetime he was 32-47 with a 4.62 ERA, 447 strike outs & 222 walks in 162 games pitched. He went back to Japan and pitched there until 2007, making his fifth All Star Team there in 2006 then retiring at the age of 42.