Rays cut ties with Nomo

Published July 17, 2005

TORONTO - The Devil Rays liked the veteran presence Hideo Nomo gave their pitching staff and got a kick out of the rabid attention he received from the Japanese media.

But most important, they needed him to get people out. And after watching him struggle through another abysmal performance Friday, they decided they had seen enough and designated him for assignment before Saturday's game.

Nomo, 36, was 5-8 with a 7.42 ERA in 19 starts, having allowed 180 baserunners (127 hits, 51 walks, two hit batters) in 1002/3 innings. In his past three outings, he allowed 19 runs and 27 hits over 12 innings.

"Starting in the second half, we would have liked to have him pitch more competitively. Not how he went about his business but just the results," general manager Chuck LaMar said by telephone. "We appreciate everything that Hideo Nomo did for this organization. He's had a tremendous career not only in major-league baseball but over in Japan also. But we felt it was time to go in a different direction."

The Rays have 10 days to trade, release or pass Nomo through waivers. Nomo, who flew back to Tampa Saturday night, hopes he gets an opportunity with another major-league team and would not consider going back to pitch in Japan.

"I want to keep pitching in the major leagues so I will wait for somebody to call," Nomo said through an interpreter. "It's very sad because I've been here since spring training. I'm not happy with leaving this team. I understand why they did it; they have a lot of young pitchers."

Manager Lou Piniella said it was not an easy decision.

"He's a professional in every sense of the word," Piniella said. "He gave us everything he had. The focus here, as you see and have seen, basically is young. So we're going to give those innings to our younger people and develop them as much as we can."

The timing was not surprising because Nomo would have earned a $90,000 incentive bonus if he made another start. In addition to an $800,000 salary, he had earned $230,000 of a possible $700,000 in incentives based on appearances or innings pitched.

Nomo, 123-109 in a career that started with his 1995 NL rookie of the year season, reached a significant milestone with the Rays, picking up his combined career 200th win, earning inclusion in the Meikyukai, Japan's Golden Players Club.

Despite his struggles, Nomo may get another chance as Al Leiter, who was 3-7 with a 6.64 ERA, did with the Yankees.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see him in another major-league uniform," LaMar said. "We felt it was time to make a change."