KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -After adding Yasuhiko Yabuta to their bullpen, the Kansas City Royals hope to attract more international talent.
The Royals signed the reliever to a $6 million, two-year contract this week and expect the 34-year-old right-hander to compete for a spot as the team's primary setup man.
Kansas City manager Trey Hillman, who spent the past five years managing the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, said he thinks acquiring Yabuta will help the Royals lure more players from Asia. The Royals have also shown interest in Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
General manager Dayton Moore said adding more pitching, especially from Japan, is a direction the Royals want to go in, and Hillman has already helped.
``His presence as our manager goes a long way in allowing the Japanese players to become comfortable. It's an important fact of where this organization is right now in regards to players from all areas of the world feeling comfortable,'' Moore said Thursday at a news conference to introduce Yabuta.
Yabuta was a free agent after spending 12 seasons with the Pacific League's Chiba Lotte Marines.
He has a 44-59 career record with nine saves and a 4.03 ERA in 343 appearances, including 86 starts. He was 4-6 with four saves and a 2.73 ERA in 58 relief outings this season, walking 10 in 62 2-3 innings while striking out 45.
Yabuta said other major league teams were interested in him, but the Royals showed enthusiasm - especially after Hillman called and talked with him.
``I was moved by those kind of actions and sincerity from the team,'' Yabuta said through a translator.
Yabuta said playing under former major league coach and player Bobby Valentine allowed him to feel more comfortable making the move to the United States. Yabuta also was familiar with the country after competing in the World Baseball Classic in 2006.
``When I played under him, I felt he's very different from other Japanese managers and I got some feelings or image of playing in the States,'' Yabuta said.
He will wear No. 27 as a tribute to former Royals pitcher Kevin Appier, who wore No. 20 in Japan - a number retired in Kansas City for Frank White.
Hillman said he's been a big fan of Yabuta while managing against him the past few years.
``I know as an opposing manager, I always hated seeing him coming into the game and that's usually a sign,'' Hillman said. ``Not only is there pitchability with his stuff, the stuff is great. The presence he brings to the mound, the confidence that he brings to the mound and the way he goes pitch to pitch and hitter to hitter is something that's impressive to see.''
Hillman said much of what he knows about Yabuta he learned through conversations with Valentine.
The Royals think Hillman's Japanese language skills will be adequate for any communication during games since translators are not allowed in the dugout.
Hillman plans to use Yabuta as a setup man in the seventh and eighth innings, the same role he had in Japan.
Yabuta becomes the second Japanese-born player for the Royals. Mac Suzuki had two stints with the team from 1999-2002.

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