Saturday, June 17, 2017

Report: Seibu Lions reach agreement with Stephen Fife

Fife pitching with the Miami Marlins AAA affiliate, the New Orleans Baby Cakes
With the end of interleague play in NPB about to come, The Saitama Seibu Lions made an unexpected move. The Lions announced on Saturday that they reached an agreement with P Stephen Fife. With this addition, Fife is the 6th foreign player and 6th foreign pitcher on the Lions' roster. Fife will be unveiled in a press conference on June 20.

Fife, 30, most recently signed the the Miami Marlins organization last winter. Frank Garces was also with the Marlins organization briefly before signing with the Lions. With the Marlins' AAA affiliate, the New Orleans Baby Cakes (Yes, that's their name),  Fife had a 3.97 ERA in 12 starts with a 4-3 record to go with 52 strikeouts.

"I am very excited to be a member of Saitama Seibu Lions, who aim to win the Japanese series," Fife said in a statement. "I am honored to have the opportunity to play in NPB. I am looking forward to learning [about] Japanese baseball, Japanese culture and making new discoveries."

Fife was also with the Chicago Cubs organization in 2016, but is most remembered for his time with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he played ichi-gun baseball from 2012-2014. Fife was a spot starter and later back-end starter for the Dodgers in 2013, where he posted his best ichi-gun year going 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 12 games. Fife would also undergo Tommy John surgery in 2014 to miss the entire 2015 season.

The Lions' 70-man roster is now full as Shogo Kimura was promoted from ikusei and Fife being signed in the same month. With the foreigner roster rule in effect, Fife will be part of a mix with three other pitchers on the outside.

Ernesto Mejia is already locked with his spot while Brian Wolfe and Brian Schlitter are both worthy to keep at the ichi-gun level. Garces is likely to be the odd man out as the Lions will probably start Fife when he is ready. Other foreign pitchers still on the roster include Chun-Lin Kuo and Alexis Candelario.

The back end of the rotation has been a large question mark by both the media and ourselves here at Graveyard Baseball. While Yusei Kikuchi, Wolfe and Ryoma Nogami have held their ground, there's plenty of uncertainty with Yosuke Okamoto and Ken Togame being there. Most recently, Yasuo Sano left Saturday's game with an injury and it's unsure if there is a timetable on him. By throwing a spot starter each week, it's a sign that the young draft picks still aren't ready.

Shinsaburo Tawata is working through a shoulder injury while Kona Takahashi has also been in ni-gun. It's possible that the Lions management wants a stop gap with Fife being added to the roster.

Fife's biggest strength is being a ground ball pitcher, which is something the Lions likely covet as they listened to their foreign scouts. His 7.13 K/9 ratio might not seem intimidating on paper, but let's also not forget that Brian Wolfe also has few strikeouts and remains productive for the team.

With Sosuke Genda at SS and Hideto Asamura at 2B, the Lions expect Fife to keep the ball in play and have the infield take care of the pitcher. We've seen how the team does with Wolfe on the mound and the Lions are hoping for the similar results.

For any Lions fans who use Twitter, Fife can be followed here


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