Royals trying to add Yabuta to bullpen
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- With the help of new manager Trey Hillman's experience and contacts, the Kansas City Royals are negotiating a multiyear deal with reliever Yasuhiko Yabuta.
Yabuta, a 34-year-old right-hander, pitched the last 12 years for the Chiba Lotte Marines, a Pacific-League team managed by Bobby Valentine. Hillman spent the past five seasons managing the Nippon Ham Fighters.
"Having Trey's expertise in the Japanese market is certainly very helpful to us," Royals assistant general manager Dean Taylor said Monday. "It may also be very helpful because there is some familiarity that the Japanese players have with Trey. There is a cultural change for the players coming to America and Trey has lived in that culture for five years. We believe he could help alleviate some of the concerns that Japanese players would very understandably have."
Taylor said he did not expect a deal with Yabuta to be finalized this week.
"We're still in negotiation. We're optimistic that we are going to be able to get a deal done. We're not there yet," he said.
Yabuta was 4-6 last season with a 2.73 ERA and four saves in 58 games. At the World Baseball Classic before the 2006 season he attracted attention by striking out Alex Rodriguez, Derrek Lee and Johnny Damon in an outing that lasted only 1 1/3 innings.
"There are still several details that we're working on," Taylor said. "The Thanksgiving holiday coming up somewhat complicates things. But we're working and we're hopeful of being able to finalize something."
Yabuta would be a candidate to be setup man for Joakim Soria, who was signed out of the Mexican League last year and has shown much promise.
"We're looking at every market we can -- domestic and international," Taylor said. "We're in a position where we will not leave any stone unturned. We're going to be around the world."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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