LOS ANGELES — The bad news continues for demoted Braves pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, who was placed on Double-A Mississippi’s seven-day disabled list with a strained right shoulder.
The move came three days after the Japanese veteran was rocked for six earned runs in five innings Sunday against Mobile in his second start for the Braves’ minor-league affiliate in Pearl, Miss.
Dropped from the Braves’ 40-man roster in November, Kawakami has allowed 15 hits, nine earned runs and three homers in 10-2/3 innings of two Double-A starts.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said Wednesday that Kawakami would see the doctor in the next day, and for now the injury wasn’t believed to be serious.
Hopes the Braves had of trading the 36-year-old pitcher and any significant portion of his $6.67 million salary have presumably diminished for the near future, due to developments of the past two months.
Kawakami was two weeks late for spring training for what the Braves said were visa issues that prevented him from getting out of Japan. That put him behind schedule and limited his spring appearances in front of scouts for potential trade suitors.
Now, the shoulder issue. Kawakami has dealt with periodic shoulder soreness for years, including during his first two major league seasons with the Braves.
A former Japanese League All-Star and winner of that country’s Cy Young Award equivalent, Kawakami signed a three-year, $23 million free-agent contract with the Braves after the 2008 season.
It has not worked out as either party envisioned. Kakawami has an 8-22 record and 4.32 ERA in 50 major-league games (41 starts), including 1-10 with a 5.51 ERA in 2010. He lost his starting rotation spot last summer and was removed from the major league roster after the season.
There were offers to the Braves from two or three Japanese teams early in the offseason, teams interested in bringing Kawakami back and reportedly willing to pay at least half of the money he was owed in the final year of his contract.
The Braves would have agreed to one of those deals, but Kawakami told them he wanted to stay in the United States and try to prove to himself and others that he could succeed at baseball’s highest level. (Unlike being traded to another major league team, any player has a right to veto being sold to an overseas team.)
The Braves still believed they would be able to trade Kawakami to a major league team during the winter or at spring training, and hoped to find a suitor who’d pick up a chunk of his salary. However, that was before his late arrival to camp.
Wren said that Kawakami was told in November, when dropped from the 40-man roster, that he would be sent to Double-A Mississippi and not nearby Triple-A Gwinnett if he was still with the organization this season.
There was speculation the Braves did it to pressure Kawakami into accepting a deal with a Japanese team, because if he couldn’t stay in his suburban Atlanta home while pitching for Gwinnett, he’d be less inclined to veto a deal.
Wren said the Double-A move was made solely because the Braves wanted to have younger players and prospects at their Gwinnett team — players who would be more likely to help the major league team if needed during the season.