Uehara signs 2-year deal with Orioles

Updated: January 13, 2009, 6:29 PM ET
Associated Press

BALTIMORE -- Right-hander Koji Uehara finalized a $10 million, two-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, making him the first Japanese-born player in franchise history.

The 33-year-old Uehara, who agreed to terms last week, completed the contract after passing a physical. He gets $5 million a year and could make more in performance bonuses. If he makes 34 starts and pitches 200 innings in each season, he would earn $16 million.

Baltimore also avoided arbitration with former closer Chris Ray, agreeing to an $850,000, one-year deal.

Uehara comes to the Orioles after a 10-year run with the Yomiuri Giants of the Japanese Central League. He went 112-62 with a 3.01 ERA, with 56 complete games in 207 career starts.

He had 1,376 strikeouts and issued only 206 walks in 276 career games for the Giants. His career average of eight strikeouts per nine innings would rank seventh among qualifying active major league pitchers.

Uehara was the rookie of the year in 1999, and won Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award in 1999 and 2002.

He went 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA for the champion Japanese team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, and helped Japan win the bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.

Ray, who turned 27 on Monday, missed the 2008 season while recovering from right elbow ligament reconstruction surgery. The operation took place in August 2007.

Ray hopes to regain the closer's role. He led the Orioles with 33 saves in 2006 and had 16 saves in 2007 before the elbow injury ended his season.

George Sherrill served as the team's closer last season and was Baltimore's lone representative on the AL All-Star team.

Ray is 10-13 with 49 saves and a 3.20 ERA over 145 career games.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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