KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hideo Nomo is getting another shot at
pitching in America.
The trailblazing Japanese right-hander signed a minor-league
deal with the Kansas City Royals that includes an invitation to
spring training next month. The 39-year-old hasn't pitched in the
majors since 2005 and made seven starts in the Venezuelan winter
league in 2006.
"He's been a successful major league pitcher in the past, and
we wanted to give him an opportunity to compete for a job," Royals
general manager Dayton Moore said Friday. "Any player we bring
into major league camp, we feel can compete for a job, and he's
going to get a chance."
Nomo, who's had a history of shoulder problems, could fill a
spot in the rotation or as a reliever. An added benefit would be
mentoring Yasuhiko Yabuta.
If he is added to the major-league roster, Nomo would get a
$600,000, one-year contract and have the chance to earn $100,000 in
New Royals manager Trey Hillman spent the past five seasons
managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan and helped lure Yabuta to
Kansas City. The 34-year-old right-hander agreed to a $6 million,
two-year contract in November and is expected to compete for a spot
as the Royals' primary setup man.
"Obviously, it will be good with Yasuhiko Yabuta here," Moore
said. "Hideo has a lot of experience and can help guide him along
and serve as a role model."
Nomo wasn't the first Japanese player in the majors; Masanori
Murakami pitched for the San Francisco Giants in 1964-65. But Nomo
clearly had the biggest impact, leading an influx of Japanese
pitchers who came across the Pacific the next few years,
including Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hideki Irabu and Tomo Ohka.
The migration of Japanese players continued over the years, with
stars such as Hideki Matsui, Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka
leaving their homeland to make names for themselves in the United
States as well.
Nomo's success provided the inspiration.
With a somewhat quirky delivery, the former Kintetsu Buffaloes
ace made a big splash when he arrived in the United States in 1995,
going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA with the Los Angeles Dodgers, earning
him a spot on the All-Star team and the National League rookie of
the year award.
He pitched the first -- and still only -- no-hitter in the history
of Colorado's Coors Field in 1996, and tossed another no-hitter
against Baltimore while pitching for Boston.
Nomo was traded to the New York Mets in 1998 and moved on to
Milwaukee, Detroit and Boston before returning to the Dodgers,
where he went 32-19 in 2002 and 2003. He went 4-11 with an 8.25 ERA in
18 starts with Los Angeles in 2004 before undergoing shoulder
surgery, then returned in 2005 with Tampa Bay, going 5-8 in 19
Nomo is 123-109 with a 4.21 ERA in 320 career appearances.
"I want to hang in there no matter what, hoping that I won't
get injured," Nomo said Friday on his official Web site.
Nomo would earn $10,000 each for 20, 22 and 24 starts; $15,000
each for 26, 28 and 30 starts; and $25,000 for 32 starts. As a
reliever, he would earn $10,000 each for 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50
and 55 appearances; and $20,000 for 60 appearances.