By Yusseff Díaz
Livan Moinelo has been a key reliever for the SoftBank Hawks, but his focus is on bringing home a championship.
Lefty Liván Moinelo has had an exceptional year for the SoftBank Hawks as their setup man. He led the Nippon circuit in hold points with 40 and was named the league’s reliever of the year in the Pacific League.
The native of Pinar del Río, Cuba is easily having the best year of his four year career in the NPB. In 48 games this year in the land of the rising sun he sported a record of 2-3, ERA of 1.72 and 37 holds during the regular season. In 47 innings he struck out 75 and opponents hit .132 against him. The hard throwing but diminutive hurler had a SO/W ratio of 3 to 1 and fanned nearly 40% of the batters he faced for an astronomical SO/9 of 14.3.
Moinelo has been a key component in SoftBank ‘s three straight league titles and has the Fukuoka team one game from a fourth title in a row.
In a very peculiar season, how did you stay in shape?
Let me tell you it wasn’t easy, I did a lot of resistance training at home in Cuba. When I made it to Fukuoka we started to train harder to be in shape for the season. But being honest my baseline training in Cuba made a world of difference.
You had the largest SO/9 of your career, what adjustments did you make to reach that goal?
Good question, we worked hard in Fukuoka on my delivery, we wanted to make it quicker and this we believed this would cause more hit and misses. I worked hard on the quicker release plenty off the mound in the preseason and my improvement with my control this season also helped me become a better strikeout pitcher.
You ran roughshod through the Pacific League en route to the Japan Series after a mediocre season, what motivated the team?
We are a team on a mission and are very focused on winning a fourth straight title. We have a powerhouse ball club, but after three straight championships, we need a little motivation after becoming complacent. I think we have a breath of fresh air this postseason and I guarantee it will translate into a fourth title.
You were the Pacific League reliever of the year, how did that make you feel?
I was estatic my hard work and discipline paid off, this award gives one much satisfaction because it shows that hard work always pays off. It also serves as motivation to keep working hard and getting better.
Which hitter in Japan gives you the biggest fits?
Man for me they all give me fits. I treat every hitter like a potential homerun hitter, by doing that you never go wrong. But if I had to choose a hitter I would say Shogo Akiyama of the Reds was my kryptonite during his time in Japan with Seibu.
Compare the talent in your incursions in International tournaments like the Caribbean World Series to the talent in Japan?
Japan definitely is a better league than the Caribbean circuit. Japanese batters foul off a lot of pitches and get you into deeper counts. They work the count harder and this makes you more susceptible to a big hit.
Will you pitch in Cuba this year?
Yeah, that’s probably something I will do this season. Even though it has been a long season here in Japan I plan on pitching in my homeland.