Irabu never quite completely lived up to expectations on the mound during a professional career that started in 1988 with the Marines. He hit tremendous highs and lows at the Yankees from 1997 to 1999 and ended after knee problems drove him into retirement in 2004 and finally following a brief and unsuccessful comeback with the Long Beach Armada in the Golden Baseball League in 2009.
Irabu, who recorded Japan’s then fastest-ever pitch in 1993 when he hurled a 158kmh fastball against the Seibu Lions, went 34-35 with 16 saves in a six-year MLB career and 72-69 and 11 saves in Japan.
Half-American Irabu struggled with alcohol abuse in recent years, getting involved in a bar brawl in Japan in 2008 and being arrested for drunk driving in the U.S. last year.
The circumstances surrounding his death have yet to be disclosed but results of an autopsy and toxicology report are expected to be issued over the coming days.