Japanese relief pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa seen here delivering… (FREDERIC J. BROWN, BALTIMORE…)
Kyuji Fujikawa, a 32-year-old, hard-throwing right hander who is considered one of the best closers in Japan, toured Camden Yards on Friday and had lunch with, among others, Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette.
Fujikawa, who is an unrestricted free agent and wants to pitch in the United States on a multi-year deal, was on a tour of sorts. In the past two weeks, he also has met with representatives of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Angels.
Fujikawa, who is known for a low-90s fastball with late life, has saved 202 games in the past six seasons for the Hanshin Tigers, and only once during that time has he posted an ERA above 2.00 (2.01 in 2010). Last year, he was 2-2 with a 1.32 ERA and 24 saves in 48 games. The Orioles are plenty familiar with Fujikawa, who was on Japan’s 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic teams and Japan’s 2008 Olympic team.
Duquette, who wants to further establish the Orioles in the international market and signed two pitchers out of Japan’s professional baseball league last winter (Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada), confirmed that the Orioles met with Fujikawa on Friday but would not offer further comment.
“He is a professional pitcher,” Duquette said.
The strength of the surprising Orioles’ 2012 season was the club’s bullpen, which will return most of its members in 2013. However, Duquette has talked about stockpiling reasonably priced talent, no matter the position or need.
In other free agent news, former Orioles outfielder Felix Pie has signed a minor-league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pie, 27, will receive an invite to spring training and has incentives included in his contract for major league plate appearances.
Pie, who played with the Orioles from 2009 to 2011, did not appear in the majors last year. He hit .285, with a .338 on-base percentage, six homers and 51 RBIs in 96 games with the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate in Gwinnett, Ga.