Kobayashi Lands in Cleveland

Congratulations, Cleveland fans. Starting with the 2008 season, your seventh inning stretch will consist of eating peanuts, cracker jacks, and – new! – eating as many hot dogs as you can in a period of five minutes. That’s because the Tribe has landed Kobayashi, who will certainly promote hot dog sales at the Jake.

All right, not that Kobayashi. But a 33 year old right-handed pitcher from Japan named Masa Kobayashi (he played for the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Japanese Pacific League) who didn’t require a $51,111,111 posting fee just to talk with him. He has signed with the Cleveland Indians for 2008 and 2009 seasons, with a club option for 2010. The reported salary is a guaranteed $6 million over the two years, with a $3.25 million option for 2010 (or a $250,000 buyout).

Kobayashi’s primary duty will be to bolster Cleveland’s bullpen (which for any team can become unstable during any point in the season; the turnover for closers in the majors is fairly significant), possibly serving as a set-up man for Joe Borowski.

Kobayashi has been pretty effective in Japan, where he has saved at least 20 games in each of the last seven seasons, tallying up a total of 227 saves and a 2.79 ERA for his career in Japan. Notable is the fact that only two Japanese pitchers, other than Kobayashi, have had 200 or more saves in their careers — Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shingo Takatsu, both of whom have pitched in the Majors. Kobayashi was a member of the Japanese Olympic team in 2005 and the Lotte team that won the Japan Series in 2005.

According to Cleveland scouts, Kobayashi’s arsenal consists of a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball that maxes out in the mid-90s, a two-seam fastball that cuts in on right-handers and a mid-80s slider with a hard, downward break. Kobayashi also has a deceptive delivery that some have compared to that of the Red Sox’s dominant left-handed setup man, Hideki Okajima.

The intentions of the Indians are clear. They want to bolster their bullpen. Said Mark Shapiro, GM of the Indians, “If we’re as good a team as we think we’re going to be, there are going to be many opportunities to pitch in meaningful situations in the late innings. That’s what we envision for him.”

Will Kobayashi be like the hype that Dice-K was? Well, “I don’t throw the gyroball,” Kobayashi said through an interpreter, so that answer pretty much speaks for itself.


~ by mlb2007playoffs on November 20, 2007.

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