11/28/2007 4:24 PM ET
Royals sign reliever Yabuta to multi-year deal
KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Royals have signed right-handed pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta to a two-year contract with an option for 2010. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
"Yasuhiko has been one of the best relievers in Japan the last several years," Royals General Manager Dayton Moore said. "He will be an important veteran arm that will help add stability to the back end of our bullpen."
Yabuta, 34, will become just the second Japanese-born player to appear for the Royals, joining Mac Suzuki, who pitched for the Royals from 1999-2002. Yabuta has spent his entire 12-year professional career pitching for the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan's Pacific League from 1996-2007. A native of Osaka, Japan, the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is 44-59 with nine saves and a 4.03 ERA in 343 career appearances, including 86 starts.
Yabuta has appeared almost exclusively in relief the past four seasons, including posting a 4-6 mark with four saves, 38 holds and a 2.73 ERA in 58 relief outings for the Marines in 2007. In 62.2 innings, he walked just 10 while striking out 45. Since the 2004 season, he has compiled a 2.80 ERA in 222 games as Chiba Lotte's main setup reliever.
Yabuta was a key contributor to Japan's run to the 2006 World Baseball Classic title, posting a 2.08 ERA in four appearances. He allowed just two hits and one run in 4.1 innings, walking one and striking out five. His World Baseball Classic stint included striking out Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon in a 1.1-inning outing against the United States.
Prior to being drafted by the Marines in the second round of the 1995 draft, Yabuta played in the Industrial League of Japan. He attended Uenomiya High in Osaka.
Yabuta and his wife, Hiroko, have a seven-year old daughter, Nanaho.
The Royals will announce a corresponding 40-man roster move at a later date.