Coroner: Hideki Irabu hanged self

NEW YORK -- Hideki Irabu's famous teammates on the New York Yankees remembered him Friday as a talented pitcher who was fun to be around.

The club held a moment of silence for Irabu at Yankee Stadium before Friday night's game against Baltimore, one day after news of his death spread. A picture of Irabu tipping his cap to the crowd was shown on the big video board in center field.

Los Angeles County Assistant Coroner Chief Ed Winter told The Associated Press in an email Friday that the 42-year-old Irabu died by hanging himself, and the mode was suicide. He said Irabu did not leave a note.

"It's really devastating. I got to know him real well," longtime Yankees star Jorge Posada said. "A guy that came out here with a lot riding on his shoulders, but he did a hell of a job for us. Tough times."

Winter said a friend found Irabu dead in his home in the wealthy Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes on Wednesday afternoon.

Winter said an autopsy was performed Friday, but it will take six to eight weeks for the results of toxicology tests, which could shed further light on the circumstances of Irabu's death.

"I was caught off guard, to say the least," Derek Jeter said. "Irabu was fun. He didn't speak a lot of English, but he probably knew more than he led you guys to believe."

The hard-throwing Japanese right-hander arrived in New York amid a wave of international hype in 1997, but faltered after an impressive debut.

Still, he had his moments on the mound. Posada recalled catching a game in which Irabu outpitched Randy Johnson with a gem in Seattle.

"When he was into it, probably the nastiest pitcher in the league," Posada said. "Ken Griffey Jr. after the game talked really high about him, throwing 97, 98 mph, splitter was 91, 92 mph."

New York manager Joe Girardi was Irabu's catcher in his major league debut, when Irabu struck out nine in 6 2-3 innings to beat Detroit at Yankee Stadium.

Girardi said he was "saddened" when he heard about Irabu's death Thursday, an off day for the Yankees.

"I thought he was a good teammate. He was enjoyable to be around, pitched a lot of good games for us," Girardi said. "He's going to be missed."

Posada said Irabu always wore a smile in the clubhouse and had a penchant for making teammates laugh.

"Obviously the communication barrier was there, but he was always trying to learn the language and the words that he spoke were the funny ones," Posada said. "He seemed like he was enjoying himself here."

Irabu went 29-20 for the Yankees from 1997-99 and was forever tagged with a label from late owner George Steinbrenner, who called him a "fat ... toad" after Irabu failed to cover first base during an exhibition game.

Irabu was a member of two Yankees teams that won the World Series, but his only postseason action was a single relief appearance in the 1999 AL championship series when Boston tagged him for 13 hits.

He also spent two years with the Montreal Expos and saved 16 games for Texas in 2002. Irabu finished his major league career 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA.


Associated Press Writer Andrew Dalton in Los Angeles contributed to this report.