Earlier this week, I wrote that based on the remaining in-house options and the lack of quality remaining left handers on the free agent market that the Indians should be confident in their left-handed relievers. Now, MLBTraderumors reports (via Nikkan Sports) that the Softbank Hawks have let former Boston Red Sox left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima out of his contract in Japan so he can try to return to professional ball the states.
Should the Indians take a look at Hideki Okajima?
Okajima, 37, appeared in 198 games (192 innings pitched) for Terry Francona‘s Boston Red Sox from 2007-2009 and posted a 12-4 record with a 2.72 ERA, 8.3 K/9, and 2.9 BB/9. He struggled in 2010, as he appeared in 56 games (46 IP) and went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA and saw his K/9 total drop to 6.3 and his BB/9 increase to 3.9. He was unable to rebound in 2011 and after seven appearances (8.1 IP) in which he allowed four runs on seven hits and five walks against only six strikeouts, and was sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. It was surprising that he remained in the minors for the remainder of the season as he pitched well, appearing in 34 games going 8-1 with a 2.29 ERA and a K/9 of 8.5 and a BB/9 of 1.6.
On December 28, 2011 he signed a minor-league contract with the New York Yankees but he failed his physical due to a sore left shoulder. That led him to find employment with the Softbank Hawks, where he pitched to a 0.94 ERA, 6.8 K/9, and 1.1 BB/9 in 56 appearances.
In his career, the 37-year-old Okajima has held left-handed batters to a .600 OPS (.218/.277/.323) while limiting right handed batters to a .700 OPS (.253/.323/.397). If healthy, Okajima could provide the Indians with an experienced left-handed reliever who can match up against lefties and can also hold his own versus righties—which would make him an intriguing pickup heading into Spring Training.