SPORTS

Blue Jays hope to have popular infielder Munenori Kawasaki back next year

09/29/2014 11:28 EDT | Updated 11/29/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - He may not be the answer to the Blue Jays' problems but general manager Alex Anthopoulos hopes to have popular Japanese infielder Munenori Kawasaki back next year.

The 33-year-old Kawasaki brings more than a bat and glove to Toronto.

Anthopoulos, at his end-of-season media session Sunday, said all you need to do is watch Kawasaki in the dugout.

"(The) different people he sits beside during the game and the different backgrounds, knowing he can't speak English, just shows you how he can connect to anybody," said Anthopoulos. "It's amazing."

Manager John Gibbons agrees.

"He's a special guy," said the Texan. "That's not what the game is all about, but he's good for our team."

Jays fans love Kawasaki for his quirky mannerisms, from stretching in the field inbetween plays to bowing to teammates. Despite his limited English, he even won a sponsorship with a local car dealership.

He spent all but three games in April and May with triple-A Buffalo, returning to Toronto in mid-June. In 82 games, he hit. 258 with 17 runs batted in. Wearing No. 66, he struck out 49 times in 240 at-bats but prolonged more than a few of those at-bats with his plate coverage, making things difficult for the pitcher.

And he can play anywhere on the left side of the infield.

"You feel good when he goes to the plate or if there's a play he's got to make on the field, you think he's going to get it done, and he normally does," said Gibbons. "He's been a pleasure. I mean, he's an uplifting guy.

"We've got some extreme personalities in that clubhouse. He's a guy that everybody kind of gravitates to and has fun with."

Kawasaki, who signed a minor-league deal with the Jays this year, played in Japan from 2000 to 2011 before joining the Seattle Mariners in 2012. The next year he joined Toronto.

He sealed his part in Jays lore in May 2013 with a game-winning double in a 6-5 walkoff win against Baltimore.

In a memorable post-game TV interview, an excited Kawasaki said "Thank you very much. My name is Munenori Kawasaki, I come from Japan, I am Japaneeeeese."

He then consulted some notes.

"My teammates gave me an opportunity, so I wanted to do something about it," he added.

He got no further as he was pied by a teammate and doused in Gatorade.

Asked Sunday if he wants Kawasaki back in 2015, Gibbons said: "I love the guy."

"I don't know what's going to happen with the team, but he'll be playing somewhere. I know that."

Anthopoulos went further.

"I think we'll look to bring him back. I think that goes without saying," said the GM. "I haven't talked to him. I don't know what his desires are. I don't think the finances have ever been an issue for him. My understanding is he can make more money in Japan, but he's wanted to play here.

"We'll see. I don't know what his goals are for the off-season, but at some point we'll sit down with him."

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports