After playing one season of Nippon Professional Baseball with the Softbank Hawks in Japan, reliever Hideki Okajima has been released so he can return to America and continue his Major League Baseball career that was thrown off track when an injury to his throwing shoulder prevented him from passing his physical with the New York Yankees.
Okajima signed a minor league deal with the Yankees last winter and was expected to compete to become one of the two left-handed relievers the Yankees would carry in their bullpen. However, after failing his physical due to the shoulder injury, his contract offer fell through and Okajima returned to Japan.
The 37 year-old lefty answered any doubt surrounding his shoulder health while in Japan, posting a 0.94 ERA in 47.2 innings pitched for the Hawks. In 2011, his final season in the Majors, Okajima appeared in just 7 games and posted a 4.32 ERA with the Boston Red Sox, where he started his career in 2007 and played all five of his Major League seasons.
Though the veteran southpaw is returning to the big leagues, the Yankees are not the favorites to land him. After finding success with lefties Boone Logan and Clay Rapada last season and youngster Cesar Cabral making a return from Tommy John surgery, the Yankees have adequate left-handed depth in their system. Early reports have the Oakland Athletics showing interest in Okajima, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
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