The Oakland A’s agreed to terms with left-handed pitcher Hideki Okajima on a minor league contract, the club announced today. Okajima will join the A’s Major League camp this spring as a non-roster invitee.
Okajima returns to the United States after pitching for Soft Bank in Japan in 2012. He was 0-2 with nine saves and a 0.94 ERA in 56 relief appearances for the Hawks. Okajima walked just six batters and yielded one home run in 47.2 innings.
The 37-year-old left-hander spent 12 seasons in Japan with Yomiuri (1995-2005) and Nippon-Ham (2006) before signing with Boston prior to the 2007 season.
He went 17-8 with six saves and a 3.11 ERA in 261 relief appearances in five seasons with the Red Sox from 2007-11. Okajima signed a minor league contract with the Yankees last January but was released in February before returning to Japan.
The A's 2013 bullpen might now feature six solid relievers: Grant Balfour, Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Pat Neshek, Jerry Blevins and Okajima. With three righties and three lefties in that group, American League Manager of the Year Bob Melvin will have one of the best bullpens in the AL to work with as Oakalnd defends its 2012 AL West division title.
Lefty Jordan Noberto may be the odd-man out now, although his 2.77 ERA and 1.135 WHIP last season might secure him a spot on the roster, anyway, especially if Okajima doesn't work out.
-- Some information in this article was re-published directly from the Oakland organization's press statement on the transactions.