Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Finally! O's Big in Japan!!!

The Orioles did something they’d never done before yesterday, agreeing to terms with Koji Uehara, a former All-Star pitcher from the Japanese Baseball League. (Go here for video of him pitching in Japan.)

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 15 years, you know that the O’s roster has been barren of Asian players at a time when most of the bigger names from Asia routinely signed with the Mariners, Dodgers, Yankees or Red Sox. So signing Uehara, regardless of the outcome, is a huge step for the future of the Baltimore Orioles. Andy MacPhail promised that the O’s would extend their scouting department past the western hemisphere, and he’s delivered on that promise by inking Uehara.

Koji Uehara is currently 33-years-old, and will turn 34 this April, so he’s no spring-roll... I mean... chicken. He’s also battled through his share of injuries during the last 2 seasons in Japan so there is some risk when it comes to his health. But, prior to his injuries, Uehara has been an innings eater throughout his career, and even better, he does something that most of our pitchers haven’t done lately, and that is throw strikes at an alarming rate.

As of now, it looks like Uehara is slated to be the #2 behind Jeremy Guthrie, while most media talking heads see Uehara as more of a #4 or #5 on better teams. But as we all know, the offseason is not over and the Orioles should add another starting pitcher or two.

All in all, this is not a huge free agent signing. It’s not going to make headlines outside of Baltimore. But it does represent a small step in the right direction for a franchise that has been so narrow-minded in the past that they were 10-15 years too late to the Dominican Republic baseball-hotbed party.

And combined with the Mark Hendrickson signing and letting Daniel Cabrera go to the Nationals, MacPhail is clearly going after players who can throw strikes.

Thank God.

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