The Atlanta Braves have reached a preliminary agreement with Japanese pitcher Kenshin Kawakami, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and other media outlets reported yesterday.
Braves manager Bobby Cox would not confirm the deal but said he hopes the club will sign the 33-year-old right-hander.
"We've had some guys watch him the last couple of years, and they like him," Cox said.
The Orioles, also hoping to improve their rotation, have had discussions with Kawakami's agent.
Cox said he has watched Kawakami on film "and he looked very good. He was able to throw the ball right where he wanted to with three or four pitches."
Kawakami's agent, former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Dan Evans, declined to comment. Braves general manager Frank Wren did not respond to an e-mail from the Associated Press, and assistant general manager Bruce Manno said he had no comment on Kawakami.
Kawakami, the 2004 Central League Most Valuable Player, has a 112-82 career record with a 3.22 ERA in 11 seasons in Japan. He was 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA for the Chunichi Dragons in 2008, despite missing several weeks with a back strain.
The 5-foot-10 right-hander would be an important addition to a Braves rotation that will be without John Smoltz, who has reached a preliminary agreement with the Boston Red Sox on a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
Atlanta lost free agent Mike Hampton to the Houston Astros and is preparing to be without ace Tim Hudson for the season as he recovers from elbow ligament-replacement surgery. The team is monitoring the progress of Tom Glavine as he recovers from elbow surgery.
Red Sox:: Takashi Saito agreed to a one-year deal with Boston, giving the Red Sox another veteran arm in their bullpen.
FoxSports.com, citing league sources, reported that the deal includes a guarantee between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, and that Saito will have the chance to earn more than $7 million if he reaches all of his incentives.
Saito, who had 18 saves and a 2.49 ERA last season despite being limited by an elbow injury, became a free agent when the Dodgers failed to offer him a contract by the Dec. 12 deadline.
Saito, 38, is 12-7 with 81 saves and a 1.95 ERA in three major league seasons, all with Los Angeles.
"He's done an amazing job since coming over from Japan three years ago," Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said during a conference call. "He's been just about as good as anyone in baseball."