Akinori Otsuka Made His MLB Debut This Day in 2004

This day ten years ago, Akinori Otsuka became the first Japanese-born player to see the field as a member of the Padres, beating Dave Roberts by a year and 12 days. Aki wasn't the first player from Japan to have his rights purchased by the Padres, but unlike the late Hideki Irabu, he didn't refuse to sign and subsequently get traded to the Arena League without playing a game.

Otsuka's first appearance came on the road, in San Diego's second game of the season. Bruce Bochy called him from the bullpen to face the top of the Dodgers' order in the eighth inning of what was a 4-4 tie. Aki got off to a good start, getting groundouts from the aforementioned Dave Roberts and Cesar Izturis. Blooming psychopath Milton Bradley got on with a double, and Otsuka intentionally walked Shawn Green to get to Paul LoDuca. It was the right call, as LoDuca struck out to end the inning.

The Padres failed to bring a run across in the top of the ninth, so Otsuka returned to the mound tasked with forcing extra innings. He collected his second strikeout, as Juan Encarnacion went down swinging, but then Adrian Beltre singled to put the winning run on base. Alex Cora dropped a bunt to move Beltre to second, but Sean Burroughs botched the throw, putting runners on the corners with one out. Dodgers manager Jim Tracy summoned future manager Robin Ventura to bat in Eric Gagne's place; Ventura proceeded to hit one of his less-famous walk-off singles and that put it in the books.

That was the last run anyone would score against him for over a month. Otsuka dominated the rest of the season, finishing with a 7-2 record backed by a 1.75 ERA in 73 games.

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