Tsuyoshi Wada badly wants to fit in with the Orioles. In his introduction at Oriole Park on Thursday, Wada donned an orange tie and even spoke some English.
Wada, who signed a two-year contract for 8.15 million with a team option for 2014, said hes wanted to pitch in the major leagues for a long time, and over the past three years, hes been adjusting his training regimen to prepare for the big change.
Hes the second Japanese player to sign with the Orioles, and on Wednesday Wada spoke with Koji Uehara, who spent 2 years with the team before being traded last July.
The left-hander has a 107-61 record with a 3.13 ERA in nine seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Perhaps that fits because Dan Duquette, the Orioles executive vice president for baseball operations, said that Wada reminds him of the soft-tossing Scott McGregor, one of the teams top pitchers of a generation ago.
When Duquette was named to his position last month, he wore an orange tie. On Thursday, Duquette wore a maroon tie and let his new pitcher wear an orange one.
Wada immediately charmed his new fan base by thanking the Orioles in English.
Uehara always used an interpreter, and while he would occasionally speak an English word or two, he didnt dare try what Wada did. Duquette said the Orioles would hire Wadas Japanese trainer and provide him with an interpreteras they did with Uehara.
There were a number of Japanese media members present. In Ueharas first months with the Orioles, he had many of them following his moves.
When Duquette was hired, he said the Orioles must make their presence in the international market greater, and Wadas signing speaks to that.
Hes someone our scouts had targeted and seen the last couple of years, Duquette said.
Hell be a good addition to our pitching staff. He pitched over 200 innings last year. If were going to improve our team, we need pitchers who are going to win more games than they lost, Duquette said.
Wada was Japans Most Valuable Player last year, and besides winning championships at home, he pitched his country to victory in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. He also pitched for Japan in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.
I hope it signals to our fans that were going to be active in all the markets, Duquette said. Bringing a world class pitcher from Japan is a signal that were active.
Wada joins Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Jeremy Guthrie and Tommy Hunter as the top candidates for the starting rotation. Last week, Duquette acquired Dana Eveland from the Dodgers. Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Alfredo Simon are also candidates for the rotation.
Id like to add as many good ones as I can get, Duquette said. Were still looking to sign additional players for our team.
Duquette was impressed by Wadas command of four pitches, and his not-so-fast fastball doesnt bother him because hes able to get his breaking ball and changeup over for strikes.
He volunteered that Wadas greatest adjustment will come as he adapts to a five-man rotation. In Japan, pitchers work with an additional day of rest. Wada is preparing for a few other changes.
I need to make an adjustment getting used to the culture and used to the ballclub, Wada said through an interpreter.
I thought the Orioles were the first team to step up and make an offer. I really felt the appreciation for the organization.
The success of Japanese pitchers in the big leagues has been mixed. Daisuke Matsuzaka signed a six-year, 52 million contract with Boston in 2007 and won 33 games in his first two years and 16 in the next three. Dice-K underwent Tommy John surgery last season.
Through last season, there have been 43 Japanese players in the major leaguesabout three-quarters of them pitchers.
Hideo Nomo, who no-hit the Orioles among his 123 big league wins, was the most successful. Uehara, who was traded to Texas, and wants to continue playing in the U.S., has done well, too. Most have been ordinary at best.
By and large the Koji Uehara signing worked successfully for the Orioles, Duquette said.
Duquette has been aggressive internationally. Last week, he lost out on his bid to sign Chong Tae-Hyon, a Korean relief pitcher, who opted to stay at home, and theres talk hes looking at Taiwanese pitcher Chen Wei-Yen.
Manager Buck Showalter did not attend the news conference. Hes home in Dallas preparing for knee replacement surgery on Friday.