Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki has told the Japanese media he hassigned a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners, interupting a workout with new teammate Ichiro Suzuki to break the news.
"I'll be going to Arizona in February to compete for a job," the Associated Press reported Kawasaki said.
The 30-year-old infielder has been viewed by big-league scouts as something of a defensive specialist, a bottom-of-the-order hitter capable of playing 'little ball.' At 5-foot-10, 165-pounds, Kawasaki patterned his hitting approach after Ichiro.
Kawasaki may well compete for a job, but wheather it will be as a starter or reserve appears uncertain.
Another Japanese player, pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, has said he is clos to signing with Seattle. A former Japanese League MVP, the 30-year-old Iwakuma battled shoulder problems in 2011 and finished the year 6-7 with a 2.42 earned run average. An innings-eater throughout his career, Iwakuma pitched 201 innings in 28 starts two years ago.
Though he once threw 95 mph, his fastball last year ranged from 87-91 mph. Iwakuma also throws a slider and split-fingered fastball.