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Tigers' Brazell returns to roots at Seibu Dome

by John E. Gibson (Jun 10, 2010)

A couple of bad pitches helped end Craig Brazell's stint with the Seibu Lions two years ago, but the slugger is back in the swing with the Hanshin Tigers.

Brazell got hit on the right shoulder in the middle of the '08 season and was plunked in the head in game 130. The first one knocked him off his game, the latter caused post-concussion syndrome and knocked him out for the rest of season.

"I was done after that," Brazell said Wednesday before the Tigers played the Lions in interleague action at Seibu Dome. "I was dizzy, I couldn't see. I couldn't even sleep--maybe an hour or two a night.

"I had blood in my ears and it was definitely a tough thing for me at the end of the year."

And the Lions made it even tougher on the 30-year-old, unceremoniously releasing him after he had hit 27 home runs and had 87 RBIs.

"It was goodbye. For me, it was like "Whoa, that's kind of shocking,'" said Brazell, who had helped supply power to a hard-hitting lineup that won the Pacific League title and eventually the Japan Series.

"I think I proved that when I was healthy, I was putting up numbers and had started to adjust. But I never got the opportunity to heal and get back to where I could when I was here."

The left-handed hitter ended up in indy ball in Minnesota last year before making his return to Japan last June 5 with the Tigers. He caught the tail end of interleague and belted a homer here against the Lions on June 11.

He said returning to Seibu Dome is "bittersweet."

"I love the fans here. I mean, I've got some good memories. I spent a year here so you get somewhat comfortable in a situation," said Brazell, who made a point to give Lions skipper Hisanobu Watanabe and team official Kosuke Maeda a bow before Wednesday's game.

"I'm happy where I'm at now, and I think things have worked out for the best," said the Alabama-born Brazell, batting .292 with 17 homers in 55 games.

His production has the Tigers digging their claws firmly into a playoff spot at second place in the Central League, and Brazell likes what he sees from top to bottom.

"We've got a good team here. We can hit, we can pitch and we have a lot of fun on this team," he said.

"Everybody's just so relaxed and we're having a good time doing what we're doing here. And that's a definite reflection of the coaching staff."

Skipper Akinobu Mayumi gets a lot of credit for that, but the Tigers added some pieces in the form of Matt Murton, hitting .348, and Kenji Jojima, who is tied with Brazell for the team lead in RBIs with 38, helping to make it a happy locker room.

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Yano's future in doubt

Hanshin catcher Akihiro Yano was deactivated on Wednesday, and might be facing retirement.

Yano, the catcher before the Tigers picked up former Seattle Mariners backstop Kenji Jojima in the offseason, had elbow surgery two years ago but is still experiencing pain that hinders his throwing.

In other Japanese baseball news:

-- The iconic Katsuya Nomura, who last year skippered the Tohoku Rakuten Eagles to their first playoff appearance, has reportedly been discharged after spending a month in the hospital.


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