By JASON VILLENEUX JR.
The Japanese left-hander’s return to the Majors was a complete surprise.
Higashi, who has a 2.99 ERA in 15 starts for the Royals, told reporters he was thrilled to be back on the mound after spending the season in Japan with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
“I was excited to get back,” Higashi said.
“It was a really tough decision for me to leave my family behind and my teammates behind, but I was very happy to be able to return to Japan and go through a big tournament like this.”
The 32-year-old lefty threw a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday in the American League Championship Series opener.
The right-hander struck out nine batters in four innings of relief and allowed only one hit.
The Royals were thrilled to have Higashi back, as he has been one of the most durable starting pitchers in the league over the last three seasons.
Higashi’s ERA over the first two years of his contract was 2.83, while his strikeout rate was 9.8 per nine innings.
But after the 2015 season, Higashi decided to return for a second stint in Japan.
He was named the Japan Series MVP and finished second in the MVP voting.
Higashiyama, meanwhile, was back in Japan for a third season, and he made the most of his time in Japan, pitching three shutout innings and allowing one run on six hits and a walk in four scoreless innings.
Higate said that the time in the big leagues helped him get his confidence back, but he still had to go through some tough times.
“It’s always hard to come back from a serious injury, especially in the minors,” Higashiyam said.
“Hopefully I can give myself another opportunity in the Major leagues.””
Hopefully I can give myself another opportunity in the Major leagues.”