In the wake of Edwin Rios undergoing season-ending surgery this past May to repair a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder, the Los Angeles Dodgers looked to address their bench by claiming Yoshi Tsutsugo off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Tsutsugo was in the final season of a two-year, $12 million contract and had been designated for assignment after batting a weak .167/.244/.218 in 26 games.
Despite his overall struggles since making the jump from Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball in 2020, the 30-year-old was confident the Dodgers hitting coaches could help him return to his previous form.
Tsutsugo went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks in his team debut against the Arizona Diamondbacks on May 18, and overall, hit just .120/.290/.120 in 12 games for L.A.
A right calf strain forced Tsutsugo to the 10-day injured list. While the Dodgers planned on activating him following the completion of a rehab assignment at Triple-A Oklahoma City, they ultimately decided to outright him off their 40-man roster in July.
Tsutsugo cleared waivers and remained with the organization’s top affiliate for another month until being granted his release in mid-August. He went on to sign a Major League contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and found considerably more success.
Tsutsugo ironically made his Pirates debut against the Dodgers on Aug. 16 and recorded a pinch-hit double in his only at-bat. In 43 overall games with Pittsburgh, he batted a solid .268/.347/.535 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBI over 144 plate appearances.
Tsutsugo’s 2021 highlight
Tsutsugo’s best moment of the 2021 season came as a member of the Pirates when he went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI in a 5-4 win against the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 21. He later replicated that stat line in a 9-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 20.
After a resurgent performance in Pittsburgh, the Pirates re-signed Tsutsugo to a one-year contract for the 2022 season. He is projected to be their starting first baseman next year and also figures to see time at both corner outfield spots.
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