TOKYO (AP) -The Kansas City Royals are interested in Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who also is being sought by the Seattle Mariners.
New Kansas City manager Trey Hillman, who spent five seasons in Japan managing the Nippon Ham Fighters, said he'd like to see Japan's top free agent pitcher in a Royals uniform next season.
``He's a great pitcher,'' Hillman said Tuesday. ``He's a real fighter and we think he would fit nicely in our rotation.''
The Mariners are thought to have the inside track. Seattle general manager Bill Bavasi and manager John McLaren led a contingent to Japan a week ago to meet with Kuroda.
Kuroda has said he would prefer to play for a team on the West Coast. But in the Royals, Kuroda would have a manager who has a wealth of experience working with Japanese players.
The Royals are also in pursuit of free agent relief pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta, who went 4-6 with four saves and a 2.73 ERA last season for the Chiba Lotte Marines.
Kuroda, a 32-year-old right-hander, was 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 26 starts last season for the Hiroshima Carp of the Central League. In 2006, he had a league-best 1.85 ERA. The year before that he led the Central League with 15 victories.
In 11 seasons with Hiroshima, he is 103-89 with a 3.69 ERA.

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