Nov 30, 2009, 1:59 PM EDT
Last offseason the Orioles signed veteran Japanese starter Koji Uehara to a two-year, $10 million deal and now they’re reportedly interested in his former Yomiuri Giants teammate Hisanori Takahashi.
Baltimore also made a run at Kenshin Kawakami last winter before he ended up in Atlanta, so the Orioles are suddenly very active in pursuing Japanese players. Uehara spent most of the season on the disabled list with an elbow injury, but when healthy he posted a solid 4.05 ERA and 48/12 K/BB ratio in a dozen starts.
Uehara was once among the best pitchers in Japan, whereas Takahashi has been more of a mid-rotation guy. Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker notes that Takahashi turns 36 years old in April and works with a fastball that rarely cracks 90 miles per hour, but also features “an excellent screwball” and was very effective this season with a 2.94 ERA and 121/36 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.
Takahashi has said previously that he wants to remain a starter, but Newman suggests that he “seems better suited for the bullpen” and could be “an effective reliever in the Hideki Okajima mold.” That would obviously be a best-case scenario given that Okajima has a 2.72 ERA in 192 innings for the Red Sox, but he’s shown that Japanese lefties with good, unconventional off-speed stuff can thrive in the majors despite high-80s fastballs.
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