Pirates sign Japanese RHP Kuwata to minor-league contract

PITTSBURGH (TICKER) —The Pittsburgh Pirates will have an international feel in 2007.

One day after signing Cuban pitcher Yoslan Herrera to a three-year contract, the Pirates on Tuesday signed Japanese righthander Masumi Kuwata to a minor-league contract. Terms were not disclosed.

Kuwata, 38, will be invited to the Pirates’ spring training, according to team general manager Dave Littlefield.

“With our international scouting efforts increasing over the last several years, we are very pleased to come to terms with Kuwata,” Littlefield said. “He has had a great career in Japan, and we’re looking forward to seeing him in a Pirates uniform in spring training.”

A 20-year veteran of the Japanese Central League’s Yomiuri Giants, Kuwata captured the league’s MVP award in 1994.

He is the fourth Japanese player to sign with a major league team this offseason, joining Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima and Tampa Bay Devil Rays third baseman Akinori Iwamura. The New York Yankees also have reportedly signed lefthander Kei Igawa to a five-year deal.

Pittsburgh’s signing of Kuwata comes on the heels of the deal involving Herrera, who inked a three-year contract on Monday.

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Updated Tuesday, Dec 19, 2006