Tazawa set to choose Red Sox

Tazawa set to choose Red Sox

BOSTON -- The Red Sox appear poised to add to their recent track record of landing Japanese pitchers, as right-hander Junichi Tazawa has reportedly decided to join the franchise that already has Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

According to two Japanese news organizations -- Mainichi Daily News and Nikkan Sports -- Tazawa will reveal by the beginning of next week that he has chosen the Red Sox over the other Major League teams that were interested in his services.

The list also included the Texas Rangers, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers and perhaps a few others.

Just as in their pursuit of Matsuzaka and Okajima, the Red Sox were stealth all the way in their scouting and courting of Tazawa.

The club has yet to say anything publicly with regard to the right-hander, acknowledging only that it made him a contract offer.

Nikkan Sports reported that Tazawa ended negotiations with all other teams and that the official announcement of his deal with the Red Sox will occur on Dec. 1.

Unlike Matsuzaka and Okajima, who had both put together impressive and sustained careers in Japan, the 22-year-old Tazawa is a much more untapped commodity.

Tazawa asked Japanese pro teams not to draft him so that he could go straight to the Major Leagues.

He spent 2008 pitching for the Nippon Oil of the Japan Industrial League, which is for amateur players only.

Tazawa dominated for Nippon, pitching a complete-game shutout in his final start, which was on Nov. 21.

His fastball, according to a Major League source, is generally in the low 90s. Some reports suggested that Tazawa threw 97 mph. If so, it appears that was a rarity.

Because of Tazawa's lack of professional experience, there's a chance he will pitch in the Minor Leagues in 2009.

Hot Stove
It isn't known if the offer from the Red Sox -- reportedly worth as much $6 million over three seasons -- was a Major League contract.

The Red Sox already have a quality starting rotation, including Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Matsuzaka and Tim Wakefield. Talented young pitchers Justin Masterson and Clay Buchholz could also be in the mix for a rotation spot. That could allow Tazawa time to get more seasoning.

The Rangers, according to reports, were believed to have offered Tazawa slightly more money than the Red Sox.

However, the presence of Matsuzaka might have paid big dividends for the Red Sox. Tazawa went to a different high school than Matsuzaka, but in the same city (Yokohama) where Dice-K built his legend.

Like many young pitchers in Japan, Tazawa is said to view Matsuzaka in high esteem.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.