The Texas Rangers signed free agent pitcher Yoshinori Tateyama on Tuesday to a one-year contract with two years of club options.
Tateyama, a right-hander who turns 35 the day after Christmas, will be competing for a bullpen spot.
Tateyama, a sidearm pitcher, had a career-low 1.80 ERA in 58 appearances for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in the Japanese Pacific League last season with four saves and 25 holds. He held opposing batters to a .213 average with 11 walks and 59 strikeouts and gave up three home runs all year. He was especially effective against right-handed batters, who hit .186 against him.
General manager Jon Daniels said Tateyama's deal is for a split contract with a lower salary while in the minor leagues.
"We have a good feel for what he is, a quality relief pitcher who can throw the ball over the plate," Daniels said. "He will have a chance to win a spot in the bullpen and help us during the season. ... Let's not make it any more or less than that."
Daniels said there were other teams interested in Tateyama, which is why he is getting a guaranteed contract.
"We felt it was worthwhile," he said.
Tateyama has a 3.43 ERA in his 12-season career in the Japanese Pacific League in 661 2/3 innings primarily as a reliever. He is attempting to become the fourth Japanese player to appear in a Rangers game, joining Hideki Irabu (2002), Akinori Otsuka (2006-07) and Kazuo Fukumori (2008).
Daniels said Tateyama was recommended by the same group of scouts that last winter advised the return of Colby Lewis, the 1999 Rangers amateur draft pick who had pitched in Japan the previous two seasons.
"He turned out to be a pretty good acquisition," Daniels said. "When these guys speak up, I tend to listen."
Lewis was 12-13 with a 3.72 in 32 regular-season starts, then went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts for the Rangers.
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.