Iguchi will play second base

Updated: January 27, 2005, 8:55 PM ET
Associated Press

CHICAGO -- Tadahito Iguchi did his homework.

Upon joining the White Sox on Thursday, he dropped the name of a well-known Chicago second baseman of the past: Nellie Fox.

"Back in the 50s, there was a player called Mr. Fox who was probably very famous," Iguchi said through a translator.

Iguchi made no promises about how famous he would become with the White Sox following eight years with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks.

Like countryman Shingo Takatsu who joined the White Sox a year ago, he'd like to get his transition to a new culture out of the way as quickly as he can and just help Chicago win.

Iguchi will make $2.3 million this year and $2.4 million in 2006 as part of an agreement completed Thursday. Chicago has a $3.25 million option for 2007 with a $250,000 buyout.

"We're not looking for another superstar to come in here," general manager Ken Williams said. "This is about a fit, a piece. I told him earlier today, 'I don't care at the end of the year what your numbers are, just go out and play the game the way you've always played it and things will take care of themselves.' "

The 30-year-old Iguchi batted .333 with 24 homers and 89 RBI last season. He's won two stolen base titles, three Gold Glove awards and been a four-time All-Star. His presence is expected to send Willie Harris to the White Sox bench.

Iguchi has 149 homers and 159 stolen bases to go with a .271 average in his eight-year career.

"I've been doing this style for eight years. There is really no intention to change that," he said. "However the batting average and the speed I would like to work on more than I did in Japan. ... When I was in Japan, I was somewhat of a home-run hitter. I would like to dedicate myself to speed and batting average before anything. I want to get on base and in scoring position."

That's Chicago's new way following an offseason overhaul that has seen the White Sox lose power hitters Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez. Chicago added center fielder Scott Podsednik, right fielder Jermaine Dye, catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and pitchers Dustin Hermanson, Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino.

Harris is the fastest player on the team, but Williams was not convinced he was the best option at second base despite a .262 batting average in 129 games last year.

"Show me I'm wrong," was Williams' advice to Harris.

Williams got tape of Iguchi, talked to scouts who had seem play and did his own analysis. He was convinced that Iguchi's swing was ready for the major leagues and his style would be conducive to what the team is trying to accomplish under second-year manager Ozzie Guillen.

"He's a guy who can hit it the opposite way. If you make a mistake, he can pull it out of the park. He can beat you with his legs and his glove," Williams added.

Takatsu was 6-4 with a 2.31 ERA and 19 saves in his first season a year ago after a shaky start. He sent Iguchi a congratulatory message Thursday, saying the two should shoot for the World Series, somewhere the White Sox haven't been since 1959 when Fox was the American League MVP.

Takatsu's presence and popularity should help Iguchi adapt more quickly.

"It should be a little bit easier than it was for Shingo for sure," Williams said.

Iguchi has visited the United States 10 times and said he first became interested in the prospect of playing in the majors while competing in the Atlanta Olympics, where Japan won a silver medal in baseball nine years ago.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press