Kansas City, Mo. The acquisition of Japanese relief pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta could be just the start of an effort by the Kansas City Royals to attract more international talent, team officials said Thursday.
The Royals signed the reliever to a $6 million, two-year contract Wednesday, and expect the 34-year-old right-hander to compete for a spot as the team's primary setup man.
Manager Trey Hillman, who spent the past five years managing the Nippon Ham Fighters, said he believes bringing Yabuta in would open up the Royals to signing more players in the Asian market. The Royals have shown interest in Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
General manager Dayton Moore said adding more pitching, especially from Japan, is a direction the Royals want to go, and that Hillman already had helped.
"His presence as our manager goes a long way in allowing the Japanese players to become comfortable; it's an important fact of where this organization is right now in regards to players from all areas of the world feeling comfortable," Moore said.