by DANNY JAILLET
OAKLAND— According to a report from Chris Cwik of CBSSports.com, the Oakland Athletics have signed former Red Sox reliever Hideki Okajima to a minor-league deal pending a physical. The news was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.
The Kyoto, Japan native made his professional baseball debut on April 2, 2007 with the Red Sox. He was Boston’s “secret weapon” that season as he went 3-2 with a 2.22 ERA, recording 63 strikeouts in 69 innings pitched. As a result of his performance, he was named an American League All-Star and acknowledged with the MLB .com Setup Man of the Year award that year.
After the 2007 campaign however, he was not as effective. In 2008, his ERA jumped to 2.61 and increased steadlity for the next few years. His Red Sox career culminated in the 2011 season, when he recorded a 1-5 mark to go along with a 4.21 ERA. In five total Major League seasons, he has a 17-8 mark with 215 strikeouts and 86 walks.
Last season, Okajima played with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of the Nippon Professional Baseball League. He performed well, recording a 0.94 ERA in 47 2/3 innings pitched.
He could be a tremendous asset to the Athletics. As may be the case with Daisuke Matsuzaka, maybe a fresh start in a smaller market will do wonders for Okajima’s career. In any event, this deal has the potential to work out for both sides, and as Oakland has shown over the years, sometimes low-risk signings can reap big rewards.