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Born on March 18, 1976 in Kyoto, Japan, Tomo Ohka (Tomokazu Ohka) played for the Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers over the course of his 8 year career. Ohka broke into the bigs on July 19, 1999 with the Boston Red Sox, and put up a 3.12 ERA in 69.1 innings pitched in 2000, his rookie year.
Most people believe that Tomo Ohka's best season was 2002, when he posted a 3.18 ERA, won 13 games and struck out 118 batters.
Coming to America
On November 20, 1998 Ohka was purchased by the Boston Red Sox from the Yokohama BayStars (Japan's Central League). Ohka's statistics in Japan were less than flattering, but his ability to control his pitches sparked the interest of the Red Sox.
In 1999, Ohka began his MLB career with the Red Sox' AA affiliate at that time, the Trenton Thunder. In 12 starts he went 8-0 with a 3.00 era. He was promoted to the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox where he had a 1.92 era and a 7-0 record. The parent club noted the success and on July 19, 1999 he made his major league debut. Ohka found himself in the minors again in 2000. With Pawtucket he went 9-6 in 19 starts with a 2.96 era, with 3 complete games, one being a perfect game. In both 1999 and 2000, The Red Sox named Ohka their minor league player of the year. Ohka was in the Futures game in 1999 and 2000 and in 2000 he was the AAA All Star game starting pitcher.
Ohka's Major League Path
During the middle of the 2001 Ohka was sent to Montreal for the veteran closer Ugueth Urbina. Ohka had a mildly successful run with the Expos. His most productive season came with the Expos in 2002, when he posted 13-8 with 118 strikeouts and a 3.18 ERA.
In June 2004, Ohka broke his right forearm when he was hit by a line drive off Carlos Beltran's bat in Kansas City. Ohka underwent major surgery and was out until mid-September. He finished 3-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 15 starts.
As the Expos moved to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season, Ohka was part of a starting rotation that included Liván Hernández, Esteban Loaiza and Tony Armas, Jr.. Ohka was involved in an incident with Washington manager Frank Robinson. Ohka protested being removed from a game, a move which resulted in an undisclosed fine from the team. This disagreement, along with an injury to Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro, was reason enough to deal Ohka. On June 10, 2005 the Nationals traded the righty to the Milwaukee Brewers for second baseman Junior Spivey. The trade is widely believed to have benefited the Brewers more because it allowed them to open the door for highly-touted second baseman Rickie Weeks and get a quality pitcher at almost no cost. In Tomo's first game with his new club on June 14, 2005, he threw a complete game shut out against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays during interleague play.
Ohka was the Brewers' fourth starting pitcher behind Ben Sheets, Doug Davis and Chris Capuano. However, on December 1, 2006, the Brewers declined to offer Ohka salary arbritration, making him a free agent.
On January 23, 2007, the right-hander reached a tentative agreement with the Toronto Blue Jays on a one year contract. The agreement was made official on January 25, 2007, and the contract was announced to be worth $1,500,000. Ohka can earn an additional $1,500,000 in incentives. Incentives are usually based upon innings pitched or game appearances.
On June 7, after compiling a 2-5 record in 10 starts, the Toronto Blue Jays designated Ohka for assignment and subsequently released him on June 18. On June 19, 2007 he signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. He was released by the Cardinals on July 3, 2007 after going 0-2 with a 6.87 ERA in 3 starts for their Triple A team, the Memphis Redbirds. Ohka then signed a minor league contract on July 13, 2007 with the Seattle Mariners.
Ohka has an average—and sometimes a shade above-- fastball, a decent curve, a slider and change-up, all of which can be effective when he is focused. Ohka's success lies in his ability to change speeds and location effectively, keeping the hitter off balance.
- Ohka pitched a nine-inning perfect game for the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox on June 1, 2000. Ohka retired all 27 batters he faced in a 2-0 win over the Charlotte Knights, and threw only 76 pitches to toss the first nine-inning perfect game in the International League since 1952.
- Sold by Yokohama Bay Stars (Japan Central) to Boston Red Sox (November 20, 1998).
- Traded by Boston Red Sox with Rich Rundles to Montreal Expos in exchange for Ugueth Urbina (July 31, 2001).
- Traded by Washington Nationals to Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Junior Spivey (June 10, 2005).
- Granted free agency (October 30, 2006).